The secret life of Walter Belfort; hold on a sec, something seems to be wrong. Thurber never wrote a short story titled, The Secret Life of Walter Belfort, no. He wrote, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty. Who is Belfort then? Belfort is a living person and his complete name is Jordan Belfort. He was penny stock trader on the Wall Street who acquired millions by cheating unsuspecting investors and lead the life of a sultan.
This post is a review about two movies. Ben Stiller’s, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Scorsese’s, The Wolf of Wall Street. Both films opened on Christmas Day. Both are comedies and both are vying for the coming Oscars.
The Secret life of Walter Mitty, is Ben Stiller’s take on the Thurber classic. It is a plain and simple comedy. While Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, based on the life story of Jordan Belfort is a “comedy noir.” Most important of all these flicks are about the American dream, in both the movies turned upside down, somehow.
Ben Stiller plays the lead in Mitty while Leonardo DiCaprio in Wolf. Both of them give sterling performances and are supported by an able support cast.
Wolf is based on the true story on the life of a rogue on Wall Street, Jordan Belfort of the Startton Oakmont fame. While Mitty is a piece of fiction about a photographer for the iconic Life magazine. The strange thing is that the reality feels like fiction and vice versa. In a surrealist way, both these movies, combined, is the secret life of Walter Belfort.
Truth really is stranger than fiction,especially when the country is U.S., the city New York and the locale the Wall Street or is it the Long Island. Wolf is the tale of a Brooklyn born middle-class young man who has nothing special about him. Whereas it is a must that in order to succeed in the corporate world you need the right heredity, the right schooling and the right connections to make a name for yourself. People like Belfort are misfits in such an elite circle. His kind is always under the radar, seldom noticed and almost never progress beyond the position of a penny trader.
Belfort with all these inherent disadvantages has the courage to dream big and lady luck smiles on him. In Wolf, Belfort metamorphoses from a social pariah to the toast of the city. An extreme change from a poor, law-abiding, newlywed young man to a libertine with the least respect for law, pocketful of dirty money and second wife. He can and does drive a Ferrari while getting oral pleasure on one occasion, and crashes his helicopter in the lawn of his huge mansion on another. Who would not like to have money like that and spend the way Belfort did? All said, the blatant truth is Scorsese has remade Goodfellas by the name The Wolf of Wall Street replacing the blood and gore of the former with sex and drugs of the latter.
Stiller keeping in with the Christmas spirit has made an extremely funny, family movie. Mitty is an instant hit with the audience but so is the Wolf albeit for the adult audience only. “Wolf” according to reports made $10 million on the box-office on the opening day, got a C rating by the Cinema Score and R by the censors. One wonders how Scorsese got away with excessive frontal nudity and obscene language.
Mitty dreams of what Belfort achieves. Mitty, at the end of the movie, is a hero who proverbially saves the day. Belfort, on the other hand is caught by the FBI sleuths for fraud and lands behind bars. Mitty only fantasizes about love, fame and success but Belfort lives it. Both films spellbind the audience, though, for very different reasons. Kudos to the makers of the The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and the not so secret life of Walter Belfort.
By Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada