Monday, 20 January 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street film review

Taking advantage of a quieter Monday as the US markets were closed due to Martin Luther King day, I managed to watch The Wolf of Wall Street, which opened here in the UK last Friday.

It was interesting being in the cinema with mostly non investment industry viewers.  I had wondered why the film had picked up some awards in the comedy category but, looking at it as a straight piece of film, there were many amusing absurdities usually of a decidedly politically incorrect nature.  Certainly there were plenty of laughs from the audience I watched the film with.

Whilst undoubtedly there were a few liberties taken with the truth to aid the storytelling process, at its heart, the film is a compelling portrayal of some of the excesses in the brokerage industry during the last twenty or thirty years plus the resulting impacts and fallouts.  Three hours is a long time for the film but it did not sag and quite which hour would be cut, to de-size it to a norm, is unclear to me. 

The film felt though like the mutant son of the late '80s epic Wall Street, cruder and less morally all-encompassing for the lead protagonists.  And whilst the trappings of wealth featured in both films, the flipside of decisions, mis-truths and 'broker speak' don't appear so readily in the recent offering.  For the casual observer it feels like a disposable fiction played for laughs. 

For the impressionable young graduate looking to embark on a career, Wall Street was a siren call - despite the illegalities shown.  That film captured the zeitgeist of the moment.  The Wolf of Wall Street - shown as a film a number of years after the events it depicts - is unlikely to ultimately inspire many aspiring brokers because the world has shifted on via regulation, disclosures,discipline, lowered commission levels and other constraints.  What it does capture though is - to clear excess - the beautiful simplicity of the smooth-talking sales approach.  The end scene (which I will not describe for those who have not yet seen the film) captures the essence of that sales hook perfectly.  And if you have got it, you have got it. 

The brokerage world may have moved on but in our day-to-day lives we are all still susceptible to a sales script. 

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