Friday, January 24, 2014

The Wolf of Wall St. (2009)

Martin Scorsese's talent for presenting unbalanced, larger-than-life characters comes out in full force with this epic story of real-life Wall Street fraudster Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio in a tour-de-force performance), who works his way up from selling fraudulent stocks to making a fortune with higher-stakes investment fraud, is indicted by the FBI and, after serving a short sentence in prison, returns as a motivational speaker, giving talks to audiences who see no contradiction in learning the secrets to success from a convicted charlatan.

It is this contradiction that is at the heart of the film. Scorsese wisely does not shy away from portraying the high-power world of the stock brokers - a world of extreme excess, of sex, drugs, booze and lots of cash - as sleek and seductive, creating a strong attraction-repulsion reaction that makes the film's conclusion all the more damning.

The film's structure is similar to GOODFELLAS in depicting its protagonist's rise from humble origins to his precipitous fall, although the Belfort character perhaps has more in common with Travis Bickle or Rupert Pupkin.

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