Rob Reviews "Dumb Money"
Craig Gillespie is a director whose work can be seen as all over the place, but if there is one pattern in his resume it is in scripts based on actual events. From Mike Tyson to Tonya Harding and the brave people of the Coast Guard, he has brought some great moments to the screen with mixed reactions from audiences. With his latest offering in Dumb Money, he tackles a very interesting and engaging story that has both hits and misses.
Based on the craziness that was GameStop stock during the pandemic, Paul Dano stars as Keith “Roaring Kitty” Gill, a thirty-something Mass Mutual analyst who spends his free time making videos for YouTube and Twitter giving financial advice. As he decides to make a hefty investment in the fledgling video game brick-and-mortar store, a group of “retail investors” (people who use apps to buy and trade stocks instead of using brokers to do it) stage one of the craziest financial coups in Wall Street history. In doing so, they ignite the ire of a number of large investment firm using techniques like “short squeezing” stocks to make their billions through these transactions alongside the inventors of an app that lets the average person do the investing on their own.
There is an all-star cast here that includes Seth Rogen, Vincent D’Onorfio, Pete Davidson, America Ferrera, Nick Offerman, Anthony Ramos, Shailene Woodley, and Sebastian Stan to give life to this story from the standpoints of not only Gill but also the hedge fund managers, his family, the creators of the app Robinhood, and even the regular folk who band together on a Reddit thread to try and stick it to the man. Make no mistake here: the story is mainly Gill’s, but to see how far and wide his “advice” is felt and affects an economy that was already volatile (in case you don’t remember, this was smack dab in the middle of the pandemic) makes this story that much more engaging. Since this ensemble cast has really no overlap outside of virtually in the third act for only a few of them, each story has to hold itself up to propel the larger narrative, and it does so very well with performances that are sufficient for what Gillespie needs from them. I don’t think the intention was to have the actors disappear into their roles (Gill himself looks more like Luke Wilson than Dano, and there isn’t much likeness to the other characters), but it was again more about them telling the story itself. The script is based on the book The Antisocial Network by Ben Mezrich (there is no irony lost on me that two of the executive producers are the Winklevoss twins), and it does make me wonder how many of the ancillary characters are real people versus “amalgamations” of the users who went along for the ride with mixed results.
The downside of Dumb Money for me is a lack of depth by the script for what is going on for the average joe. For those expecting something in the vein of The Big Short¸ there will be a level of disappointment here. The explanation of the short squeeze is breezed over at best, and as the GameStop stock soars and soars in value, the rollercoaster ride itself doesn’t carry as much impact as I think it could if the audience could get an explanation of the “why”. Sure, a bit of that is part of the gamble that is the stock trading industry, but some of it is very complex and could be explained within the narrative. Having seen the three-part Netflix documentary series in Eat the Rich: The GameStop Saga well before seeing this film, I feel like I might have had a leg up on those who had not, but I really should not have had that to fall back on.
I cannot say that whether or not I had seen the documentary first changed my enjoyment of Dumb Money, but from an entertainment value standpoint, this is a fun movie that can be enjoyed no matter what the format it is seen in. For those that may have “tired head” with all of the stories about life during the pandemic or how crazy our economy has become, this doesn’t really beat that part of it into the ground. It actually takes those themes and uses it to its advantage to help drive home the point that through it all, there really can be “power to the players”.