“The Wolf of Wall Street”
“Jesus said to them,
“Take care! Be on your guard against
all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of
possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a
young man on the make. He’s got a new
wife, one off-the-rack suit, and boundless ambition.
He goes to work for a Wall Street brokerage firm, full of arrogant
cynics who assure him that it’s not about making money for the customer, but
instead for the broker.
is confused. He’s also naïve.
Both of those change very quickly. And
so does the economy. The recession hits
so quickly that the stock market plummets precipitously and suddenly Jordan
Belfort is out of work and seriously considering just being a stock boy
somewhere. But his wife points to the
one want ad that is seeking a stockbroker, which, it turns out, deals
exclusively in penny stocks. Yes, the
dispirited dysfunctional social misfits he meets there are even worse than the
arrogant, narcissistic egotists he knew before, but now instead of being the
“pond scum” rookie, he’s suddenly the confident, sophisticated salesman
they all want to be. He can’t believe
that the commission is actually 50% on these penny stocks.
He’s blissfully collecting his commissions and going out and buying
things that scream “Success!,” like a new Jaguar.
And nice clothes. The other guys in the office all want to be like him.
So he takes a few he thinks he can train, and opens his own firm, where
he gives them pep talks, and shows them how to meet every objection a
potential customer might have. He’s
so brash and confident and energetic that he actually inspires them to
produce, which, of course, only makes him more prosperous, and quickly his
operation grows exponentially. And so
do his appetites.
The more Jordan Belfort succeeds, the
more insatiable he becomes. He can’t
make enough money; it’s never enough. He
graduates from marijuana to Quaaludes to cocaine.
He buys designer suits. He lives
mansion, then throws outrageous parties featuring full-bore debauchery and
unbridled hedonism. His prudent and
sincere but unspectacular first wife has managed to look the other way at his
predilection for hookers (be they expensive “lookers” or cheap skanks)
because he doesn’t love them. But
then he meets a woman that he absolutely cannot resist, the blonde bombshell
Naomi (Margot Robbie), and soon the loyal but plain-Jane first wife is
discarded, too. Naomi is the kind of
knockout beauty that Jordan Belfort feels he deserves to have by his side.
Except, of course, he cheats on her, too, and she’s not nearly so
Sure, every day. Cutting
corners? Yeah, but who’s the wiser?
Secret Swiss bank accounts? Of
course, and even an English aunt of Naomi’s to carry the cash through
customs. Yes, Jordan Belfort had it
all, and can do anything he wants, go anywhere he wants, indulge himself any
way he wants. That’s why, when his
lawyer tries to tell him that the FBI is sniffing around, and they are not to
be trifled with,
disdainfully dismisses the danger. He
feels invincible. His employees all
adore him (because he’s made them all a lot of money).
He preaches to them like some evil twin of the old-style evangelist,
profanity-laced tirades full of naked greed, appealing to his atavistic
charlatan charges with an impressive array of warbling exhortation, simmering
defiance, pulsating passion, ribald humor, over-the-top promotional ploys
(strippers and dwarves?), and extraordinary self-promotion. His incredible
persona is like an unstoppable whirling dervish, an irrepressible tour de
force, as charming as the devil himself, and twice as likeable.
So, do we suspect that all the palpable
excess is going to come hurtling down like the proverbial house of cards?
Of course, but the strange part is that we’re a little sad about that
inevitable crash to earth (why didn’t he take the deal that the Feds first
offered him?), because we, too, find ourselves under his mesmerizing spell.
Leonardo DiCaprio delivers an
Oscar-worthy performance, but be warned, stalwart Sunday Schoolers, this
R-rating is raw and well-deserved, bordering on the dreaded NC-17.
You can’t take your grandmother. But
if you do choose to watch Jordan Belfort in action, you will see everything
they don’t teach you in church, and then some.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St.
Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,