Saturday, May 18, 2024

“DUMB MONEY”

THE STORY – Everyday people flip the script on Wall Street and get rich by turning GameStop into one of the world’s hottest companies. In the middle of everything is Keith Gill, a regular guy who starts it all by sinking his life savings into the stock. When his social media posts start blowing up, so does his life and the lives of everyone following him. As a stock tip becomes a movement, everyone gets wealthy — until the billionaires fight back and both sides find their worlds turned upside down.

THE CAST – Paul Dano, Pete Davidson, Vincent D’Onofrio, America Ferrera, Nick Offerman, Anthony Ramos, Sebastian Stan, Shailene Woodley & Seth Rogen

THE TEAM – Craig Gillespie (Director), Lauren Schuker Blum & Rebecca Angelo (Writers)

THE RUNNING TIME – 104 Minutes


The enormous pressure for a movie like “Dumb Money,” chronicling the GameStop Stock short squeeze of 2021, is that in addition to telling an entertaining story, the film must educate its viewers on the subject it’s covering. What’s a short squeeze? How do hedge funds lose money when one stock shoots up? Rather than stop the momentum of a story to give explainers like “The Big Short” did a few years ago, “Dumb Money” focuses on telling the story well, simplifying the details, and trusting the audience to follow along. Viewers won’t receive investment tips from the film, but Craig Gillespie’s latest crafts an energetic, intelligent breakdown of what happened in January 2021, creating heroes you genuinely want to cheer for.

Based on Ben Mezrich’s book “The Antisocial Network” (the author also wrote “The Accidental Billionaires,” which was adapted into “The Social Network“), “Dumb Money” primarily focuses on one man: Keith Gill, played with relatable likability by Paul Dano. Most of the world came to know Gill by his YouTube moniker, Roaring Kitty. Gill was essentially a nobody. He has family problems with his wife (Shailene Woodley) due to their financial troubles, just like everyone else, and he bonds with his deadbeat brother (Pete Davidson) in the aftermath of a family tragedy. To put it simply, he’s like most average Americans. He certainly wasn’t rich. He was a financial analyst but had not achieved much major success until he started posting to a Reddit thread, r/wallstreetbets, and YouTube about his idea to go all in on the company GameStop. “I just like the stock,” Gill tells his small following which starts to grow slowly but surely due to his findings about the company being grossly undervalued by Wall Street. The big guys in suits make money by betting against companies such as GameStop, which are on the brink of collapse, and all Gill wanted to do was turn the tables.

Gill puts $50,000 into GameStop stock, and the rest of r/wallstreetbets starts noticing. Before long, his commitment starts to catch on. “Dumb Money” showcases various members who join Gill “on a mission to the fucking moon.” They’re all pretty much broke. There’s a nurse named Jenny (America Ferrera), two college students named Riri and Harmony (Myha’la Herrold and Talia Ryder), and even a GameStop employee named Marcus (Anthony Ramos). They’re watching Roaring Kitty like he’s a messiah, here to save the stock market from the greedy bastards who have rigged the system. Gill is their Robin Hood, and the investors from r/wallstreetbets are his merry men, and they’re stealing from the rich to give to themselves. Even when others mock them, they hold the line. Jenny defends the group to her friend. “The r/wallstreetbets people aren’t nerds. They’re gangsters!” That’s how they see themselves, anyway.

“Dumb Money” is another absurd but true story of modern-day class warfare. Gill and the rest of the r/wallstreetbets investors directly oppose big hedge fund managers with their Gamestop bid. Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen) is hit the hardest, but with billionaire friends like Steve Cohen (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Ken Griffin (Nick Offerman), he doesn’t have much to really fear as Ken pulls strings behind the scenes to have Robinhood, the stock trading app frequented by every day, non-Wall Street investors run by Vlad Tenev (Sebastian Stan) and Baiju Bhatt( Rushi Kota), pause investments in Gamestop. They rigged the system, and they’re not even subtle about it. And if Ken gets squeezed hard enough, his friends will always be there to bail him out.

For a film that opens by blasting Cardi B’s “WAP” and centers on a character named Roaring Kitty, you might not expect it to be as intelligent as it is. Ridiculous as many of the characters are, the film’s humane sentimentality is its secret weapon. There’s genuine reflection on how hard the pandemic hit the world and how bad the divide between the rich and the poor grew in such a short period of time in America. Director Craig Gillespie, known for stylistic flourishes in “I, Tonya,” “Cruella,” and “Pam & Tommy,” is surprisingly restrained in how he tackles the story. So much of the film is inherently silly that the filmmaking pulls back a bit and works like a charm to counterbalance the meme-centric storytelling. Credit must also be given to Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo’s deft screenplay. Gillespie’s tight control also helps the script to feel believable through and through, even as the story gets crazier and a modern-day revolution takes place in the financial world that we’re all still feeling today.

Like a great sports movie, “Dumb Money” keeps the audience rooting for the underdog, despite it actually being a true-life financial story. The audience is entirely in Gill’s corner and the rest of the Gamestop investors. The story is a strange but essential marker in time for America, following in the footsteps of films like “The Social Network,” “Moneyball,” and “The Big Short.” The well-put-together film inspires genuine goosebumps during its final ending titles that will make audiences break out in applause and raise their triumphant fists in the air as they continue to root for the little guys who simply want to level the playing field and be given a fair shot to make money in this country. What could be more American than that?

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - A triumphant fist in the air for the little guys. Despite blasting "WAP" and centering on a guy named Roaring Kitty, it's a surprisingly restrained and intelligent crowdpleaser that will have audiences cheering.

THE BAD - Oversimplifies its topic a bit. By making Keith Gill a hero, the film may embolden overly-excitable viewers to make unwise decisions.

THE OSCARS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 8/10

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Daniel Howat
Daniel Howathttps://nextbestpicture.com
Movie and awards season obsessed. Hollywood Critics Association Member.

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Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>A triumphant fist in the air for the little guys. Despite blasting "WAP" and centering on a guy named Roaring Kitty, it's a surprisingly restrained and intelligent crowdpleaser that will have audiences cheering.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Oversimplifies its topic a bit. By making Keith Gill a hero, the film may embolden overly-excitable viewers to make unwise decisions.<br><br> <b>THE OSCARS - </b>None <br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>8/10<br><br>"DUMB MONEY"