It can’t be stressed enough the sheer grit and true mastery of trade that one must have to work on Wall Street. Wall Street to people can often be overlooked for its lackluster appeal of numbers and be misconceptualized as a hobby to the rich man. Though one trait that is essential to the business of the stock market or any trade or deal is the honesty of the parties involved to ensure a pleasurable outcome for both interests of the group. This theme is heavily represented in Barry Levinson’s film “The Wizard of Lies,” which is available now on HBO.
“The Wizard of Lies” is based on the book of the same name by Diana B. Henriques. The film follows the infamous events of the largest financial fraud in U.S. history, which were carried out by Bernard Madoff, played by the wonderful Robert De Niro (“Taxi Driver”). It follows Bernard Madoff and his wife Ruth, portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer ( “Scarface”), and more closely his two sons, Mark (Alessandro Nivola “American Hustle”) and Andrew (Nathan Darrow “Gotham”), as their whole lives come crumbling down due to Bernard’s involvement in a Ponzi scheme, which saw $64.8 billion in stolen money.
The film does an amazing job explaining the crisis behind the Madoffs’ Ponzi scheme and how it ruined the lives of the Madoff family. We see truly ground breaking performances by the entire cast, especially Robert De Niro. Bernard Madoff is emotionless at times, cynical and empty, but there is humanity to him, as the film shows a side of him that is struggling with hiding his big secret. He struggles internally as well with his family as things start to unravel and the truth is exposed, but he redeems himself personally as he pleads guilty to all the counts of his crime. His performance, even without any dialogue in a heavy written scene, shows his true impact of an actor, making the audience grasp onto every word and movement as well as silence accompanied by his performance. In addition, Pfeiffer shows an extremely intense inner struggle to side with her husband or her two sons. As the family starts to break apart, we see how the media, along with friends, starts to stand themselves against the Madoff family.
The film is a success in almost every way except for its length. It runs at 132 minutes,and seems to be too much of a stretch. There also seems to be quite a few moments in the film that are just extremely bland and uninteresting. They try to focus on a character but end up instead creating a scene of the audience losing a connection to the film.
“The Wizard of Lies” as a whole brings a lot of interesting ideas to the table in portraying Madoff and in some ways vilainizing him, but it also humanizes him as someone that is too caught up in himself and his actions to see the damage that is being done around him. It is a film that makes use of its amazing cast, especially De Niro, who without a doubt is the highlight of the film. Wall Street is no doubt hard to understand, but in the large scheme of things, what is made easier to grasp onto is the the mentality of what greed surrounding the market and corruption does to people.