The Wolf of Wall Street is a memoir written by the wolf, himself, Jordan Belfort. The book is about how Jordan got his start in the stockbroker business, how he made as much as 23 million dollars in one day, how he got wrapped-up into drugs and sex, and how it all came crashing down. A movie with the same title was released in December of 2013 and has garnished some major notoriety, good and bad.
Belfort writes in his introduction that his memoir is “a true story based on his best recollection of events” that happened in his life and that he used the real names of people in the book, unless indicated otherwise. He also states that some of the events have been compressed for the sake of the narrative and that some dialogue was recreated to best match the exchanges between people in the book. In the prologue, after relaying his meeting with Mark Hanna, the man said to be his mentor, he states that this memoir is a “satirical reconstruction of the insanity” that took place. He explains that he primarily hopes that his story will serve as a cautionary tale to the rich and the poor, “to anyone living with a silver spoon on their nose and a bunch of pills in their stomach sack and to any person who is considering taking a God given gift and misusing it.” Having said all that and knowing that he spent much of his time being high, I have some major doubts about what actually did happen (although I am not sure how relevant that is). Essentially, here is an expert snake oil salesman selling his own story. You do the math.
Jordan Belfort discovers quickly that his God given talent is the gift of being able to persuade the masses. He can sell anything to anyone, convince anyone of anything, and paint a picture so beautiful that even he couldn’t see the poop underneath. This memoir definitely does take the reader on a wild ride and I question whether or not the point, his purpose for writing the memoir, is truly driven home. And, I would argue that the movie drives the point home even less. I find that there is a fine line between relaying one’s past and glorifying it. Also, I would say that, because of the controversy surrounding the number of f-bombs in the movie and the amount of sex in it, the purpose of the movie is diminished even more. I don’t fault the filmmakers for necessarily putting too many f-bombs and too much sex in the movie. Instead, I feel that it is the extreme reaction of certain audience members that makes the movie be about the language and the sex and not about a man that spent his life getting so high that he put his own life and the lives of his family in danger.
Many also have a problem with the fact that Belfort is making buck off the story of his criminal activity. The government stated that he was required to give 50% of his earnings from the book and movie to his financial victims, but he has responded that he is giving instead 100% of his earnings to those victims. Another interesting tidbit that I discovered was that supposedly Tommy Chong (Cheech and Chong) was his roommate in prison and convinced him to write this memoir because the stories were so entertaining. I was pleased that I had done research on Belfort before going to see the movie, because I recognized his cameo at the end right away and so got to see his tenacity in action.
While my mom believes that this movie is an abomination, I completely agree with the Oscar nominations that were given to the film. The directing is very crisp and clear and the acting really is incredible. Dicaprio, who plays Belfort, not only acts the part seamlessly but he also displays some physical acting this is, in my opinion, amazing. Jonah Hill proves once again that he is more than a funny stoner. I also read that Hill accepted a salary of 60,000 (considered minimum wage in Hollywood terms) for making the movie just so that he could have the opportunity to work with Scorsese. And, while given a short part in the movie, Matthew McConaughey acts his part as Mark Hanna with real conviction. I guess you would do that when Scorsese is involved.
It is difficult to say whom I would recommend this book and movie to. I can’t say who would or would not be highly offended by either the movie or the book. The book has as many f-bombs as the movie and so I chose not to listen to it with my son in the car. I think I might recommend it to those who I know enjoy biographies. The only problem is that many of them are also a bit too conservative for the story. I guess I would say that it’s a good book but that an interested reader should proceed with caution.