23 December 2017 | DrWilliamWonk
Surprisingly fascinating... even when you the story well!
I was somewhat surprised by this biopic, since I'm well-acquainted with the modern Ponzi scheme story and the $65 Billion ripoff committed at the private investment firm. But even for those familiar with the general story, the documentary film provides a fascinating portrait of the Madoff family and the key characters. Overall it reminds me of an epic Greek tragedy.
The principal crime committed by Bernie Madoff is clearcut. Officially, Madoff run a phenomenal hedge fund, but in reality it was just one big hoax and pyramid investment scheme. All ROIs were fictitious and existing investors were paid by the money provided by subsequent investors. Aside from defrauding rich individuals of European royalty, Madoff took advantage of the fact that he as a jewish investor had excellent contacts to other wealthy American jews, which allowed him to swindle countless of the latter of all their retirement savings. All in all, in the end it led to countless tragedies and suicides on both continents.
The financial thriller behind it has been well-told by previous accounts, particularly 'No One Would Listen' by Harry Markopolos (i.e. the financial analyst struggled to expose the fraud for many years). It's also true that the ramifications would have been much more limited if the SEC would have done their job properly.
However, what this biopic does is following Bernie Madoff and the effects of the exposure on his own family, i.e. particularly his wife Ruth and his two adult sons. It seems as his family was completely unaware of the fraud and the movie does a good job in explaining how his sons never got the information from their dominating father. Later, when it all blew up the fraud also wreaked havoc on the lives of his wife and sons.
In the end, it was all for nothing. The family members would lived longer and happier lives without massive fraud committed by the Bernard. While the portrait of him is by no means completely unsympathetic, he remains seemingly oblivious even to this day to the devastation he caused in so many lives, including to those nearest to him.
The main roles played by Robert de Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer are brilliant, but also the less-known actors playing his two sons.