Sunday, March 2, 2014


Wow. What a story.

Riveted from start to finish, Scorsese gets the nod from me for directing because of this movie. Leonardo DiCaprio slams a homerun and fully deserves it if he wins Best Actor.

I was warned by so many people about how filthy the movie is and how it glories in its filth that I found myself surprised by how much more was going on here than simply that. To me, none of the nudity, sex, or language every appeared as titillation for t...he viewer and all served the higher purpose of exemplifying how completely dissociated from reality DiCaprio's character, Jordan Belfort, was. In a sense, this movie is a different version of the same character path of Walter White in BREAKING BAD. A nobody who careens down a fast path into pure narcissism and sociopathy to become an arrogant criminal with a stream of destroyed lives in his wake.

Where the switch turns in Walter White because he is faced with terminal cancer, Belfort's switch gets turned because of drugs. Turns out this "normal" guy gets instantly addicted to anything if he can get a rush from it, whether it's drugs, lying, investing, speeding, or as he states at one point even his lover (and future second wife's) "pussy". He is addicted to anything and everything not related to his perverted perception of success and happiness.

And the one constant through it all is that he is never ever happy. He has "fun". He has "thrills". He has financial "success." But he is never actually happy. Enough is never enough. His loss of self and any sense of behavioral boundaries is so extreme that I found myself literally holding my forehead in my hand and shaking my head in disbelief.

It is a masterful piece of storytelling to get you to feel some sense of rooting for such a malicious lying little bastard who can self-justify even the grandest of conniving little scenarios to make money off scamming the weak and the poor out of their last few pennies. And yet, through it all, Scorsese and DiCaprio (and the phenomenal supporting cast) all keep a grounding in humanity and give the viewer these little "wake up calls" to remind us not only that this really happened but that there are victims and the victims matter.

When it becomes necessary for the audience to turn on Belfort, to lose our last bit of sympathy for him, Scorsese hits us with a two-fer punch to the gut. One, literally, Belfort punching his wife in the stomach and then, in a cocaine haze, attempting to steal his daughter away.

After the film I looked up the factual details to see how exaggerated the film's details actually were. doesn't sound like there was much exaggeration at all.

The scariest thing to me is that Jordan Belfort is still out there, with a narcissist's smile and a sociopath's lack of empathy continuing to ply his trade in the motivational speaker circuit.

This movie is a condemnation of mindless overindulgence and selfishness to the extreme and it does so brilliantly. My only fear, considering that the real Belfort appears in the film to "introduce" the post-jail Belfort (DiCaprio) to an audience, is that Scorsese, DiCaprio, and everyone else involved with the film may have gotten overly caught up in the debauched mythology themselves and forgotten the very real victims. Regardless, this is a film that examines many of the same themes I've been noticing throughout the year's Oscar nominations. Primarily the theme of the facades we project to the world and the lies we tell ourselves to justify them. And one thing's for certain, Belfort's ability to lie to himself was his greatest natural talent and to see it on display in this film was mesmerizing.

★★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★

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