Recently, I wrote a post in which I celebrated the success of faith-based films like God’s Not Dead and Heaven is for Real because such movies stand against an anti-religious climate of opinion that is based on nothing but prejudice. But I finally got the chance to watch Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street and by my lights, this film — which begins with a stockbroker snorting coke out of a hooker’s orifices and then proceeds to get degraded — may be the best advertisement for the religious life to come out of Hollywood in years!
In outline, the film is almost a remake of Scorsese’s greatest work Goodfellas, only instead of rising and falling in the mob, Wall Street’s anti-hero Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) rises and falls in the stock-trading business. Like Goodfellas, the film is based on a true story. And like Goodfellas, it lovingly portrays the joys of being the big man — the power, the money, the women, the drugs — as opposed to being an everyday shnook and loser like the rest of us.
But Goodfellas’ milieu contains its own self-criticism — we all know it’s wrong to be a gangster and while stabbing someone to death with a fountain pen may be amusing onscreen, most of us don’t really want to murder anyone or destroy a perfectly good fountain pen. Plus Goodfellas’ Henry Hill never rises much higher than suburban thug. But The Wolf of Wall Street’s crimes are bloodless. He’s just selling the pen, along with some crummy stocks; doing some money laundering and so on. And his success and wealth are so amazingly, outrageously huge, the babes so hot and plentiful, the excess so delicious that Belfort’s life stands as a perfectly good representation of at least one version of the American dream.