The Wolf of Wall Street is a movie that I first heard about from my friends (side note: they are business students going into finance!). I watched the trailer and found it interesting. It also reminded me of the documentary I watched on Enron, The Smartest Guys in the Room, from which I also wrote a post about before. My friend described this movie as, “Every man’s dream.”
So I went to watch it last Tuesday (half off movies!). I had no idea it was 3 hours long and only when the worker asked for my ID did I realize it was rated R. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the movie. I thought it was moderately entertaining and highlighted Leonardo DiCaprio’s acting skills. The most hilarious scene I found was when he was trying to get into his car at the country club after taking very strong lemons.
Let me tell you something. There’s no nobility in poverty. I’ve been a poor man, and I’ve been a rich man. And I choose rich every fucking time.
As entertaining as the movie was, there were several scenes and lines that left an impression on me.
The last scene showed a seminar where Jordan talks about the art of selling. He goes up to each person one by and one and asks them to “Sell me this pen.” The panel view shifts from each individual sitting in the seminar to capture the faces of the dozens of people behind. The movie ends with this last picture.
This scene left an impression on me because of the faces of these people. These are people who are sitting in a seminar with hopes that they can master the art of selling. These are people who are sitting in a seminar to listen to Jordan Belfort, a multi-millionaire business figure, speak. And these people were absolutely staring at Jordan as he speaks. Technically, they are staring right into the camera and right at me. I felt it through those earnest stares… the desire for wealth. I felt their desire to be rich like Jordan, their desire to gain the know-hows Jordan has, and the ominous feeling that this simple desire could morph into an uncontrollable greed for more. Did that not happen with Jordan himself? At the beginning of the movie, Jordan talks about how he wants to be rich. That was the sole thing he desired. He had a wife, love, family, and friends. But after he achieves in being rich, his greed grows and he throws away other joys. Even after he remarries, his greed for money causes him to lose his wife and children.
Even though the ending scene only involved a couple dozen people attending the seminar, I felt like this was a generalization on people. We, as people, desire to get rich fast, without really thinking too much about the aftermath. It left a bad taste in my mind, like a message of warning of an ongoing cycle. This was the life of Jordan Belfort. What about all those people listening to him? Wouldn’t a story such as Jordan’s be told again? It will. A similar story will spring forth from someone else. Everybody wants to be rich.
Another scene that left an impression on me was the one where the FBI agent is riding the subway. He reads the newspaper that tells him Jordan has been found guilty for his crimes and is sentenced to several years in jail and a fine of 110 million dollars. I don’t fully know the true intentions of this scene, but there is no dialogue involved. The only information I recall is that Jordan should have been sentenced for much longer (20 years). A flashback of a previous scene also pops into my head as I watch this part. It is the scene where Jordan invites the FBI agent onto his yacht and tries to bribe him with money. As I watch the subway scene with this in mind, I felt as if the FBI agent was thinking: “Should I have taken Jordan’s offer?” or “What would’ve happened if I took his offer?”
This is because the FBI agent’s expression is grim and unsatisfied as he looks at the people who ride the subway with him. It is late at night and nobody is talking or smiling. The appearance of the other subway riders depicted an urban, low/middle class lifestyle. The FBI agent seems completely unhappy with his standard of living. If the lesson in this movie was that “Greed is bad” then the FBI agent should have looked at his surroundings and nodded or smiled a little. This would’ve left me with an impression that even though he may not be rich, at least he did the right thing and he is happy with that. Instead, it leaves me with this regretful feeling saying, “Things could be better if I had money” or even more specific, “I could be happier if I had money”.
Other quotes that left an impression on me during the movie:
“This right here is the land of opportunity. This is America. This is my home! The show goes on!”
This is when Jordan decides not to turn himself in for smaller crimes leading to a shorter jail sentence. This is when I feel like he actually goes off a tangent and becomes uncontrollable. With the support of his company and admiration from his workers, he feels invincible. It also really made me think about how American culture is reflected in their rowdy corporate culture.
“I am not gonna die sober!”
Jordan says this line when they are in his yacht fighting a storm at sea (about to sink). Even in this terrifying moment of potential death, his mind is on his drug addiction.
“I want you to solve your problems with money.”
This is a line he says to his workers as part of a motivational speech. Everyone cheers.
As a conclusion, I would like to repeat what Tyler O’Neil writes in his movie review of “The Wolf of Wall Street”:
Belfort gets away with his raunchy, illegal, immoral life, and only pays for it with temporary things. His satisfied look at the end of the movie tells audiences that he considers his personal losses worth the temporary glamour, sex, and power he briefly enjoyed. While a godly person might break down at even the idea of dismissing one wife for another, ratting out his friends, or losing custody of his children, Belfort cares more about satisfying the unquenchable lust that ultimately robs him of all value in his life.