'Dumb Money' TIFF Review: Wild comedy about the GameStop stock goes to the moon
Courtesy of Sony
Presented in a manner that’s “The Big Short” by way of the poor man’s “The Social Network,” Craig Gillespie’s wildly fun “Dumb Money” captures the insane 2020 craze when retail traders were able to short squeeze GameStop stock and make a fortune while hedge fund managers lost billions. It’s a classic David versus Goliath story everyone knew was going to be made into a major Hollywood motion picture as soon as the options became available. For anyone who dabbled in the phoneomen and made a quick buck in the process (guilty as charged), “Dumb Money” will be a hilarious trip down memory lane, and those who didn’t will be able to follow along while a murderers row of actors tell the story at a breakneck pace. Complete with plenty of memes, Tik Toks, and visual graphics.
The screenplay by Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo impressively juggles fifteen different narratives happening in unison. It might coast through some minor, intimate details, but the gist of the story remains sound and puts real life YouTube streamer and financial analyst Keith Gill (Paul Dano) at its center. Known by his online alter-ego Roaring Kitty, he was the first to point out how undervalued the GameStop stock was, but, in reality, he just “liked the stock.” His wife, played by Shaliene Woodley, supports his endeavors, though she’s written like a cheap piece of plot development, a scapegoat that can ask questions audience members may not understand. Those looking for any “Big Short” type fourth wall breaks will be disappointed.
From the start, the movie has no problem drawing class warfare lines by introducing the characters via on-screen text that details who they are and how much they are worth. For example, we’re told Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen), CEO of hedge fund Melvin Capital, is worth billions while Marcus Barcia (Anthony Ramos), a lowly GameStop sales associate is strapped with $137 bucks. Nobody will question who the good guys are in this situation, but these interesting statistics go a long way in setting the stakes early.
The phrase “dumb money” is an expression billionaires use when retail traders ignore logic and throw money to the Wall Street hounds. Still, that didn’t stop the little guys from scouring the Reddit chain “wallstreetbets” and hedging their life savings on the advice of a guy who wears a “Karate Kid” bandana while giving out stock advice. Those taking the plunge involve folks like Marcus, college students Harmony (Taila Ryder) and Riri (Myha’la Herrold), and middle class, blue collar workers like Jenny (America Ferrera) and Keith’s absentminded brother Kevin (Pete Davidson). Their goal is to ensure they aren’t screwed over by the big wigs, which include Plotkin, Robinhood co-founder Vlad Tenev (Sebastian Stan), fellow hedge fund jackass Steve Cohen (Vincent D’Onofrio), and owner of the Citadel trading firm, Ken Griffin (Nick Offerman).
Anyone with a brain knows how rigged the system is and “Dumb Money” never shies away from the primary target. Especially as the film takes place at the height of COVID and we’re reminded these rich sycophants were casually renting private jets and flying all over the country while everyone else was stuck in lockdown. Yeah, we know who the villains are here!
Still, “Dumb Money” maintains a breezy and commercially appealing energy as it unfurls the highs and lows of the saga. Gillespie’s steady direction and the polished screenplay ensures audiences are given the full picture without feeling overwhelmed and it also acts as a swift reminder of what is possible when you give power back to the players.
DUMB MONEY premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Sony will release it Friday, September 29th.