The credits began to roll and I left the theatre feeling as if I had been swindled, similar to how an eager, low-level investor feels after watching their penny stocks fluctuate only to ultimately disappear. The Wolf of Wall Street played me and I lost a movie ticket and three hours — but that’s the point. And that’s why this film is something short of brilliant.
If you plan on seeing it, I’d advise you to stop reading right about now and return later. The best part of the film is the last few seconds and I don’t want to ruin anything, though it’s not like there’s a twist ending where Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Jordan Belfort ends up being a woman or that Severus Snape was good all along. This is the kind of ending that requires hours of waiting and in the last moment before the credits appear you see that it all makes sense.
“Do you know what a fugazi is?” Matthew McConaughey’s character asks an innocent Belfort as the film begins. “Fufazi, fugazi. It’s a wazi, it’s a woozi — fairy dust.” McConaughey explains that in this game of stock exchange, the broker’s goal is to keep their client on a financial carrousel for as long as you can. Fool them into thinking they’re winning when in fact the broker is gaining loads of money in commissions. Right there in the Kanye-charged trailer is The Wolf of Wall Street. This film is a cinematic stock exchange scam where the viewer sits through three hours of flashy, colorful sights only to realize in the end that the movie was just a ploy set on taking your money and time and if you let it, your cinematic dignity. Way to go, Martin Scorsese you old-timer.
The Wolf of Wall Street has little or no character arc and few Raging Bull, Goodfellas cinematography scene stealers. The movie, in and of itself, is about getting people to buy things they don’t need due to false expectations and then dancing with the profits — which is exactly what Jordan Belfort does with stocks. The Wolf of Wall Street breaks the fourth wall and it too scams its investor.
But instead of feeling like I’ve had some sneak in my cookie jar, I give praise to the film. It reminds me of Modest Mouse’s hit “Float On,” when it says, “Well, a fake Jamaican took every last dime with that scam/ It was worth it just to learn from sleight-of-hand.”
The context of the story is very simple, it’s three hours of eye candy. I saw enough naked women that after awhile it wasn’t awkward sitting next to my dad and there was so much cocaine and Quaalude abuse that Pope Francis might even consider a dabble. Every 15 minutes an exciting sequence would occur that would make you forget that your butt hurts and that it’s time for the film to end. The one true moment of the film happens when Belfort is explaining to the camera how a company can go public through an IPO but then stops suddenly and says that we (the audience) aren’t interested in things like that and whisks us back to a story of debauchery. Jonah Hill is a great comic relief but I’m sure the actual Danny Porush, the character in which Hill portrays, is pissed that Judd Apatow’s fat guy plays him.
Investors are just pawns used to spin the carrousel and after an elongated ride the story concludes with Belfort conducting a Get-Rich seminar in New Zealand. He goes around the audience and asks attendees to “sell him this pen.” One-by-one he asks the classic seller’s question until the camera pans up showing the audience entranced by the wolf’s technique. Their faces are stoic and stupefied, just like everyone’s in my theatre. One dude next to me even let out a Eureka- moment “oohh” capping the experience. He was played, I was played and the winner is The Wolf of Wall Street.
Follow Silas Valentino on Twitter @SilasValentino