To say that I was a little late watching "The Wolf of Wall Street" is an understatement. Released in 2013, I didn't see it until last week and then suffered through a 4-hour FX version that had 5 minute commercial breaks. Thankfully, it was DVR time.
I was underwhelmed by the movie. I get it- Jordan Belfort is a pathological criminal who we're supposed to go back and forth between hating and admiring - "Look! Jordan's great at pumping the troops up!! I just wish he didn't need a half pound of blow to do it, don't you????"
So the movie was a wash for me - right up until the end. That's when two scenes that underscore a couple of big lessons on talent play out that saved it in my eyes.
To understand and put the final scenes in context, you have to remember that there's a boat scene a little past halfway in the movie when Belfort invites a FBI agent on the boat to try and bribe him. The FBI agent is played by Kyle Chandler (the coach from Friday Night Lights). In the scene, Belfort lets the FBI agent know that he has information on the agent's background - that he started out as a stockbroker, but got out early. He then asks the FBI agent if he ever looks around the subway car when he's on his way home and wonders what might have been - a straight up call to the agent's relative poverty. The scene ends with Belfort unsuccessful in his bribery attempt.
Flash forward to the end of the movie. Belfort goes to trial and is convicted and taken into custody. Two scenes happen after that that underscore the following reality:
People Who Create Find New Ways To Thrive. People Who Manage Process Top Out. That's Life.
Here are your scenes:
-The FBI Agent (Chandler) is riding home on the subway - either that night or the next day - and reads the paper with the headline about Belfort's conviction and sentence. With Mrs. Robinson from Simon and Garfunkel playing in the background, he looks up from the paper, looks around the car at all the people grinding it out and obviously remembers Belfort's question to him about "what might have been."
-The end of the movie features Belmont's supposed career reinvention after he's released from prison - guess what? He's now embarked on a speaking career as a sales trainer for people willing to pay 1K to hear him speak - so he can help them unlock the sales tiger within. Classic.
My take is pretty simple. It goes to show how unfair the world can be when a criminal can reinvent themselves and have a successful career taking money from people AFTER he's released from prison for the same thing.
But life's not fair. In the talent game, those who have the ability to create within their field will always find new ways to perform and earn. Those who can't? Well, they run the risk of topping out in what they do.
As I get older, I'm no longer willing to applaud the Belforts of the world. But it underscores a pretty important point to what the market values most - creation of value, OR the perception of creation of value. I'm not celebrating it, but in the end of this movie, that's your payoff for suffering through a bunch of drug usage and the celebration of ripping people off.
The end of the movie appears below (email subscribers click through for video). Push the dial ahead to :31 if you're in a hurry, 3 to 4 minutes of video for the perspective - worth your time.