HBO releases The Wizard of Lies, on DVD and Blu-ray tomorrow, October 3/17.
Although I knew some of what had transpired, it wasn't until I read Diana B. Henriques' book of the same name, The Wizard of Lies, that I had a firmer grasp on the reality and scope of the fraud and deceit of Madoff's scheme. Henriques's book is excellent, charting, exploring and dissecting Madoff's path in great detail. She ably explains how the crime was perpetrated and how it was able to continue as long as it did. Henriques was a New York Times reporter and it was she who was able to access Madoff for interviews in prison. I wondered how her book would translate to screen.
Oscar winner Barry Levinson is the director. His choice of Robert De Niro to play Madoff was absolutely perfect. His physical presence, mannerisms, arrogance and smooth talking uncannily mirror the original. Michelle Pfeiffer plays his wife Ruth very well.
Levinson brings us in at the of the end of the story with Madoff convicted and imprisoned. Through interviews with reporter Henriques - who plays herself - a nice touch I thought. We know what has happened, but Levinson tells the story leading to this moment through flashbacks. There are some details of the logistics, but the focus instead seems to be on the personal side of things. I had no idea of what befell Ruth and her two sons and their families as a result of Bernie's scam. Heartbreaking, as they truly seemed to have no idea what was going on. It seems there are still those that question the 'ignorance' of family and employees as to what was going on.
Most fascinating for me was Madoff's take on his actions. His claims that his victims had to take some of the blame for losing their money - after all, they were willing to trust him. The last line of the film (which I'm not going to spoil for you), is quite eye opening. I admit, I hadn't considered the possibility until it was mentioned. But, yes, now I think it's true.
The Wizard of Lies is a fascinating look at the perpetrator of this ignominious crime. And at the heart of it you know what they say .....if it seems too good to be true......