Martin Scorsese is at it again with his golden child, Leonardo DiCaprio, in his new dark comedy, “The Wolf of Wall Street“. Based on the unbelievable, but true story of disgraced stock market broker Jordan Belfort and his rise, fall, and subsequent rise again.
Starting in 1987, we see an eager Belfort (DiCaprio) entering the stock market, mentored by super broker Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) who teaches the young 22-year-old the key ingredients to being a successful broker on Wall Street: worship money, do cocaine, and masturbate twice a day. Unfortunately, everything crumbles before Belfort’s eyes on Black Monday when the market crashes. Still hungry for money, he finds a tiny strip-mall brokerage in Long Island, N.Y. where penny stocks are traded with a 50% commission. (Unlike his last 1% commission)
Realizing he can make a killing at this with his unique gift of gab, Belfort immediately gets together a dream team of degenerate lowlife losers that are eager to make as much money as possible, even though none of them are the smartest tools in the shed. He soon meets up with his #2, Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), a geeky guy who is as depraved as he is. Utilizing an ingenious script and a “do not take ‘no’ for an answer” philosophy, Belfort’s new company, “Stratton Oakmont“, is soon selling big stock using highly illegal practices. Their offices grow to maximum capacity with eager 20-something’s, all money-hungry and filled with a thirst for blood… in a manner of speaking. They move back to NYC and become known as the “bad boys of Wall Street” with Belfort as “The Wolf”. Their offices resemble frat houses with strippers, naked marching bands, keggers, and parties that rivaled Caligula’s.
The untold millions rolling in goes to Belfort’s head (both of them) and he divorces his comely wife, Teresa (Cristin Milioti) so he can marry a gorgeous trophy wife named Naomi (Margot Robbie) who, thanks to her British aunt (Joanna Lumley), sets up a Swedish bank account to safely house millions of the firm’s dirty money – and there’s alot of it. Piles of cash. Mountains of greenbacks. Donald Trump’s hair would stand up and salute it; I’m talkin’ tons!
So much so, that Belfort doesn’t know what to do with it all. He buys everything he can think of: Lamborghini’s, yacht’s, mansions, drugs by the pound, hookers by the mile, and STILL that doesn’t satisfy his insatiable thirst for more of everything. Belfort’s father (Rob Reiner) can’t figure out why his son so unbelievably rich, yet tries so hard to get even richer. His extravagant lifestyle and over-the-top personality is put under the scrutiny of the FBI and agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler).
When given a chance to get out of the business and not face criminal prosecution, Belfort, in a memorable scene, delivers a passionate and rousing speech to his employees that makes Gordon Gecko’s “Greed is good” soliloquy sound like a boring nursery rhyme. Bolstered by his own words and the love of his fellow staff, Belfort decides screw it, I’m gonna keep going and damn the consequences!
But, of course, his house of cards comes crashing down hard as the FBI gets the goods on him, but still offers him a way out: snitch on your associates and your sentence will be reduced by sixteen years. Belfort agrees and ends up with only four years in a white-collar penitentiary. After his release, Belfort wrote a book about his life and went into motivational speaking.
At a merciless three hours long (OMG!), this film does for greed and drugs what “Goodfellas” did for Wiseguys and murder. I have never seen so much graphic nudity, explicit language, and drug use in any one film in a great, long time. The excess on the screen was so overwhelming in fact, that it deterred from the overall story, making some people actually walk out of the theater! Still, the ol’ Scorsese touch is there in every frame with DiCaprio owning this film start to finish. I especially liked DiCaprio’s narration and fourth-wall-breaking to the audience.
The script, adapted by Terrence Winter, is based on the real-life memoir of Jordan Belfort and is so unimaginable that all of this could’ve happened to a real person. Just seeing the amount of drug use that one man did to himself is utterly ridiculous. How is this guy still alive? The man is so despicable, so degenerate, so contemptible, that rooting for him is nearly impossible.
If I Had A Million (1932)
Yeah, I bet you fantasize about that, don’t cha? But in 1932, a million bucks was worth a lot more than a million bucks.
This unusual comedy-drama deals with a dying tycoon named John Glidden (Richard Bennett) who can’t decide what to do with his wealth. He advisers tell him he must give it to his relatives or his company, but he despises both. He finally decides give seven random people out of the phone book his remaining $7 million. What happens next is seven stories of each of the recipients of $1 million. Some are happy, some are sad, but each one has their own flavor and texture, thanks to seven different directors who direct each individual tale.
Some of the stories are shorter than the others; some are visited by the dying Glidden to see where his money has gone to… sort of like TV’s “Undercover Boss“. You have the “China Shop” episode where the a henpecked salesman (Charlie Ruggles) goes crazy and wreaks destruction at his work after receiving the $1 million check in the mail. A bar room prostitute named Violet Smith (Wynne Gibson) who, after receiving the check simply goes to bed, all alone.
You have the great George Raft as a lifetime forger who, after receiving his check, tries to cash it, but nobody will believe that the check is real, given his criminal occupation and history. In the end he just burns the check to light a cigar.
In one my favorite episodes called “Road Hogs“, two ex-vaudeville performers (Alison Skipworth and W.C. Fields) have finally scrimped and saved enough to buy a brand-new car. The moment they drive the car out off the lot, it’s broadsided by another car and totalled. Once receiving their check, however, they purchase eight new cars and go on a road rage of unparalleled destruction, smashing into other drivers who flaunt the law in their eyes. Leaving a path a destruction behind them, they gleefully hop into their other cars they have driving in a processional behind them!
Another favorite is Charles Laughton as Phineas V. Lambert, a bespectacled, shy little clerk in a massive business office. When he gets his check he silently gets up, goes to the president of the company, knocks on his door, and blows the man a raspberry… and then promptly leaves!
The final story is Mary Walker (May Robson), an scared, elderly woman consigned to a horrible rest home run by a tyrannical Mrs. Garvey (Blanche Friderici). The inmates there are unhappy, told when to eat, went to sleep, and are almost held prisoners against their will. When Mary’s check arrives, she turns the table on the owners, forcing them to be the prisoners of HER new rest home! The nasty old staff is forced to sit in rocking chairs all day, while the elderly eat cake, play with cats, and party all day! Jordan Belfort would have been proud.