This was great! I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It is nonstop entertainment. When I saw a running time of 179 minutes (nearly 3 hours!), I was thinking the movie might drag on but I didn’t look at my watch once; I was that absorbed.
The story is based on the memoir of Jordan Belfort, a New York stockbroker who spent 22 months in prison convicted of fraud relating to stock market manipulation and running a penny stock boiler room. This is a fascinating portrayal of the high living of Wall Street: the quick buck, booze, drugs, and sex. Oh, did I mention drugs? Jordan is one colourful character and this is one long story.
Belfort’s rise to fame – Or is it infamy? – and his fall occurred in the 1990s but this is very much a tale of the Wall Street of the crash of 2008. There is a telling moment in the beginning of the film when Belfort discovers how much money he can make by bending the rules and he says, “We don’t make anything.” That’s the odd part of this story and the story of 2008. These people don’t make anything. They are not making products which add to the economy; they are basically moving money around, nothing else. They take money from one pocket and put it in another pocket however the pocket they are taking from is our pocket and the pocket they are putting it in is theirs.
If somebody produces a product, there is the product, a thing which has value. By trading stocks, inflating the prices, etc., what is produced only has value if the next person thinks it has value and wants it. If nobody believes it has value and nobody wants it, that thing is worthless. In a way, it’s one giant Ponzi scheme. Like the film American Hustle, the main character is profiting from the naive greed of the common folk hoping to get rich quick. As I like to point out, for every million dollar winner of the lottery, there are nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine losers.
While the film had me laughing out loud at the craziness of a bunch of drug-addled stockbrokers defrauding suckers left, right, and center, I found it to be a cautionary tale of just how unregulated greed can damage us all. I have to chuckle when I hear the far right demand less government regulation for it is precisely regulations which keeps the bad boys in check. The economy is one complex beast. Greed can breed greed and it can quickly spiral out of control. Apple is one of the richest and most important corporations in America because they make a product. You can look at it; you can touch it. It is a tangible thing which has value. J.P. Morgan like many other firms is pushing paper around taking stuff from one pocket and putting it in another pocket. In May 2012, the firm announced $2 billion in losses. Oops.