The Wizard of Lies (2017)

Rating TV-MA
Biography / Drama
Try pairing with:  Bone-In Broiled Pork Chops

Jen’s Rating:  B

Anyone born before 2007 knows who Bernie Madoff is or at least heard of him. The Wizard of Lies seemed like the perfect thing to watch when you don’t know what kind of mood you’re in to watch.

Robert De Niro played Bernie Madoff, the big man of Wall Street. Madoff made a living by working on Wall Street then became greedy. He conspired against a lot of people including his own family. Somewhere in his mind he believed he was doing good for his family but did not consider that he was actually harming them. Madoff came clean to his family the day before he was about to turn himself in, which caused his 2 sons to turn him over to the FBI.

Michelle Pfeiffer played Bernie’s wife, Ruth Madoff. I was very excited because I haven’t seen her in anything lately and she is a great actress. She captured the New York accent perfectly. She also easily made me feel remorse for her. I severely disliked the way Ruth is ostracized by her old friends. Ruth had no clue what Bernie did. If she knew I’m sure she not only would’ve done the right thing but she wouldn’t have had her sister invest with him.  She lived the lavish life for a period of time because she was under the impression her husband was ethically running a business. She too is as much a victim as the people Madoff took money from. No one should shun her for that. Society is full of mean people.

The Wizard of Lies was filled with top rated cast including Hank Azaria and Kathrine Narducci and many others. The acting was impeccable but I find myself giving it a B. I wanted to give The Wizard of Lies an A but I could not bring myself to because although the film was 100% negative. Madoff was a bad man and he indirectly became a murderer because of all of the people who committed suicide because of the horrendous things he did.  However, this movie doesn’t show the happy points of their lives at all. The movie was very sad and made me feel very remorseful for his whole family and everyone he hurt. This movie is very good and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes biographies.

Jeremy’s Rating:  B-

I had been waiting to watch The Wizard of Lies since we had originally recorded it when it aired on one of our premium channels, and it sat, staring at me every time we would look at what was on our DVR, until a couple nights ago.  Finally, I had my chance to watch it, and while I was not disappointed whatsoever, I wasn’t blown away either.  Directed by Barry Levinson, this film chronicles the crimes of Bernie Madoff through an interview aesthetic.  However, the interview is conducted with the actor Robert De Niro playing Madoff, instead of the actual man himself, and seems to be partially fictional, although I did not verify this outside of the film.  The tone set is very dark and never really deviates from that, but as you get deeper and deeper into the film, you begin to see how his actions affected those around him, and the thousands of others who had invested with him and his firm.  Pretty much everyone knows what he did, but until you see the consequences up close, you don’t really recognize the true impact of what happened.

The film also takes the time to profile his sons and his good friend Frank (Hank Azaria), but spends the majority of the time it is not focused on Bernie, on his wife Ruth, played by Michelle Pfeiffer.  She does a wonderful job and is excellent in bringing to life the part of a woman who is married to one of the biggest perpetrators of securities fraud in American history.  As she learns of what has happened, almost secondhand, she instantly finds herself in a situation where her husband has lied to her for fifteen years, and of being shunned by friends and family.  The supporting cast also does a wonderful job, with Lily Rabe as Catherine Hooper, Kristen Connolly as Stephanie Madoff, and Nathan Darrow as Andrew Madoff.  Another standout was Alessando Nivola, who played Mark Madoff and was excellent in showing his slow descent into depression after his father’s crimes came to light, leading to his eventual suicide.

While the film is interesting and a neat window into the life of the Madoff family, including the events leading up to their downfall, it’s the fallout that is showcased.  Do not go into watching this expecting something riveting, or anything even close to a happy or neutral ending.  It is true to life and everything in the film maintains that perspective.  There are some particularly lucid scenes that I won’t reveal, but one comes to mind of a friend who has lost everything due to Bernie, pretending to be nice to one of the Madoff sons on the street, then going full throttle into a violent tirade.  It was very unsettling; that’s where this film gets it right.  This is why I gave it a B-.  It needs something to make it more palatable, but is wonderful at the same time.  If you can get this as a cheap rental or on cable, definitely go for it.

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