In case you forgot, or were too young to be paying attention, Bernard “Bernie” Madoff is, according to a sourced summary at Wikipedia, “an American fraudster and a former stockbroker, investment advisor, and financier. He is the former non-executive chairman of the NASDAQ stock market, and the admitted operator of a Ponzi scheme that is considered the largest financial fraud in U.S. history. Prosecutors estimated the size of the fraud to be $64.8 billion, based on the amounts in the accounts of Madoff’s 4,800 clients as of November 30, 2008.”

The Wizard of Lies is a 2017 American television drama film about Bernard Madoff. The film is directed by Barry Levinson and written by Sam Levinson, Sam Baum, and John Burnham Schwartz, and based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Diana B. Henriques. The film stars Robert De Niro as businessman “Bernie” Madoff, Michelle Pfeiffer as his wife Ruth Madoff, and Alessandro Nivola as their older son Mark Madoff. It originally aired on HBO on May 20, 2017.

I managed to see this latest in original films from HBO the other night, which I see garnered the highest ratings for the premium cable network in four years!??

The Wizard of Lies is not the first film about Madoff and his crimes. There was a TV mini-series on ABC a year or two ago with Richard Dreyfuss as Bernie Madoff. My sister asked me the other night how Lies compares, and I told her, “Well, it’s HBO, so a lot more use of the word “f**K”! Also, this movie jumps all over the place chronologically, but mainly rotates between the stock market crash of 2008 and when Bernie was finally sent to prison in 2009. It’s been awhile, so I’m not quite sure I remember, but I “think” the ABC movie mostly had a straight-up linear story-telling approach.  

In this adaptation of the Madoff story, screen legend, Robert De Niro re-teams w/ Oscar-winning filmmaker, Barry Levinson after their collaborations on Wag the Dog and Sleepers.  As well, Levinson did a good job, a few years ago, directing Pacino as Kevorkian in the HBO original movie, You Don’t Know Jack. While I didn’t like this movie as well as that one, I did enjoy The Wizard of Lies.   

I got a kick out of watching De Niro as Madoff; I mean he’s still De Niro! — sometimes I felt like I was watching the Goodfellas or Raging Bull version of the whole thing — like the scene where he complains to the waiter about how his lobster was handled!?? And, kudos to Michelle Pfeiffer, who did a good job playing his wife, and Hank Azaria, who played his real “partner in crime”.