4 February 2016 | blanche-2
a $50 billion fraud that took years to discover
"Madoff" is the story of sociopath Bernie Madoff, a story we all know too well. It's worth watching for the performances.
It stars Richard Dreyfuss as Madoff. He's terrific, and I imagine very much like the real man. The two-parter follows the story of the Ponzi scheme, the effect on Bernie's family, and Madoff's inner dialogue, done as a narration.
Other actors in this excellent cast include Blythe Danner, Tom Lipinski, Peter Scolari, Danny Deferrari, Frank Whaley, and Erin Cummings.
Though the first part is all over the place, with dizzying camera work and disjunctive scenes; the second part is much better.
The film does a great job of showing what happens when people -- like, for instance, the SEC -- turn a blind eye to something because they believe someone to be respectable. It took securities investigator Harry Markopolos 10 minutes to figure out that Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme, and six hours to figure out how he was doing it. But no one listened - and that's the title of his book.
It also demonstrates how Madoff saw himself as a victim, the "fall guy," finding it outrageous that he was being blamed.
Standout in the cast, besides Dreyfuss, is Peter Scolari as Peter Madoff - a brilliant, emotional performance; Tom Lipinski and Danny Deferrari as his sons, who found out the trading division they ran was just a front and turned him in; Blythe Danner as Ruth Madoff, who stood by him and tried to get her sons to sign a bond for his bail (they refused); and Michael Rispoli, who worked side by side with Bernie.
I saw "Enron: The Smartest Guy in the Room" and also a documentary about Madoff, and saw the SEC meeting where a Judge slammed the SEC, asking them "what the hell" they thought they were doing, ignoring countless letters of complaint about Madoff, and the fact that somehow they didn't know he wasn't a registered agent. Not that he needed to be one - the only investments he ever made were in his own bank account, to the tune of $50 billion.
For Bernie's investors, half of them as of this date have been completely repaid, with more money being returned all the time. Irving Picard has been diligent in going after Bernie's money - but mind you, he formed foundations and gave millions to charities, and those charities wound up having to return the money.
It's an awful story, but it's hard to have pity for Madoff. It's hard to feel sorry for his investors, because it was greed that brought them to him in the first place, the carrot of big money.
The ones to pity are the members of Madoff's family: his two sons, now both deceased, his son Andrew telling a newspaper that his father's disgrace "killed my brother (suicide) and it's killing me slowly (lmantle cell lymphoma)." The family has a genetic predisposition to cancer; leukemia killed his nephew Roger.
In one of the saddest moments of the film, Madoff presents his brother Peter (Scolari), Roger's father, with a new car shortly after Roger's death. Peter of course works in Madoff's firm and knows Bernie's methods aren't above board, but he doesn't know details. Peter gets into the car and sobs, "Roger, he's been paying me off for years, hasn't he?"
"Nobody wants the magic trick explained," Madoff tells his wife. And he was right. Nobody wants the magic trick explained as long as the checks are good and the money keeps rolling in.