Steve Madden is a self-styled rock & roll, youth-culture shoe designer. That was all hip and fun when it involved clubbing and partying, but not so much when he was sentenced to thirty-one months in prison for SEC violations. Unfortunately, he was the biggest name attached to the Wolf of Wall Street case. Yet, Madden would mount a massive comeback for his eponymous brand after his release. It is an inherently dramatic story, but Ben Patterson makes it sound like bland corporate puffery in Maddman: The Steve Madden Story (trailer here), which releases today on VOD.
Madden grew up in a hard-working Long Island community, largely representing the Madden family’s college drop-out black sheep. However, he discovered he had a knack for selling shoes. Working his way from the stock room to the sales floor, from a neighborhood store on the Island to a swanky Manhattan boutique, Madden found his calling. He started his own company with $1,100, building it up to a fashion juggernaut, facing up to his alcohol addiction along the way. It was a spotless Horatio Alger story, except for the fact Jordan Belfort’s Stratton Oakmont brokerage house handled Madden’s IPO. As a result, Madden’s finances became problematically intertwined with those of Belfort’s company.
You could argue Madden was grossly over-prosecuted, but that could potentially involve taking a controversial position, so Patterson sticks with a hazy Steve-was-done-wrong position, while divulging precious few details on the actual legal case (which naturally makes us curious). Whenever Madden teeters on the brink of honest self-examination, Patterson promptly cuts away to another former cellmate or company employee to tell us how great a guy he is.
Granted, Madden is a charismatic figure, but his supremely confident bluster gets old after the first forty-five minutes or so. It is also too bad Patterson couldn’t find at least one anti-Madden fashion critic to serve as the skeleton at the feast. Instead, the film is all Steve Madden, all the time.