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The Wolf of Wall Street: A retrospective

It has been nearly eight years since The Wolf of Wall Street was released to the public on Christmas 2013.

Via witty comedy and an embedded message about unbridled American capitalism, the motion picture quickly ascended to a top movie of the decade. Generally regarded as a solid movie at the time of release, Martin Scorsese’s piece has had ample time to age.

Fortunately for Scorsese and the entire production team, the blockbuster movie has withstood the test of time, more specifically the changes in social dynamics and economic thought from 2013 to the present. Everything from the subtle political commentary to the extremely well-done screenplay has remained industry standard for any work comparable to the 2013 hit.

In short: The Wolf of Wall Street has aged like fine wine.

Shot from the perspective of Jordan Belfort, a broke child of European immigrants turned multimillionaire, The Wolf of Wall Street details the meteoric rise to fame and financial freedom of a broke kid from Queens. Based on a true story, Scorsese’s motion picture takes viewers on a wild ride from poverty to ultra wealth to imprisonment, showing the highs and lows of wealthiness in America. While the movie is set in the nineties, many of its themes can be seen with the ultra-wealthy of today. The main reason the movie has aged so well from a plot standpoint is the depiction of the pursuit of wealth and what some will do to attain currency. Belfort and his associates made themselves millionaires from lying, cheating and deceiving poorer working-class people, promising the poor quality stocks they were selling would explode. Eventually, the scamming reached people of similar wealth as Belfort, which in turn attracted federal attention. This would lead to the government takedown of the corporation. On the way to his (admittedly evil) success, Belfort was depicted as having a growing drug addiction, 2 separate decaying marriages and overall poor quality of life, in contrast to what many feel a person with a peak net worth of 93 million dollars would have. The intricacies of money and the pursuit of it are very well illustrated in the movie, and a clear message is sent: money can buy happiness, just not too much money. Belfort’s struggles with addiction, possible depression and marital issues are all allusions to stress money cannot really fix but potentially can amplify.

Throughout the movie, Belfort has a single focus: getting cash, no matter what stands in his way. This can be interpreted as a statement about the average stockbroker in America today, one who stomps on whoever and whatever they need to to make a buck. At this point, the “fine wine” of the movie is unearthed. Belfort’s trek into illegal activity is undoubtedly a shot at millionaire “businessmen” criminals in our society. With the growing wealth inequalities of today being far worse than they were during the movie’s release in 2013, angst towards the ruling class is at a century-high. The Wolf of Wall Street is a tell-tale story of the corruption of the stock trade and money’s pull on humans. It is a profound way to depict a capitalistic society and deserves all the positive press it has garnered.

However, most who revere the movie call out its phenomenal acting and storytelling from a cinematic standpoint. Leonardo DiCaprio (Jordan Belfort), Jonah Hill (Donnie Azoff) and Margot Robbie (Naomi Lapaglia) team up for an unforgettable cinematic performance, full of raw emotion and extremely well thought out writing. The production value was very high, and despite the movie being released eight years ago, it is still very much industry standard. Outside of the plot material and themes discussed, the movie has a very solid flow about it. It was relatively easy to digest and follow, with a second watch being recommended, not mandatory for full understanding. Overall, it was just a very solid movie from a production and screenplay standpoint. Withstanding the test of time, Scorsese’s crown jewel has maintained popularity and discourse over almost a decade past release. 

Given the choice between rich and poor, you may always choose rich; but, just know what may come as a side effect.

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