Orange is the New Black writers Laura Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo team with The Social Network co-scribe Ben Mezrich and I, Tonya director Craig Gillespie for Dumb Money, an almost spiritual successor to Adam McKay’s 2015 finance flick The Big Short, only with more recent touchstones and a far more satisfying conclusion.
Viewers should probably brush up on concepts like short selling and short squeezes to fully appreciate what this one’s laying down—or at least know that billionaires, at one point in time, referred to amateur traders as “dumb money,”—but even those not well-versed in market politics will find an enjoyable small-beats-big parable that just plain feels good.
Dumb Money tells the real-life story of Keith Gill, aka Roaring Kitty, a one-time financial analyst and social media personality who, in 2021, single-handedly drove up furor surrounding stocks for video game retailer GameStop, which resulted in a massive uptick that ruined at least one hedge fund, exposed investment app Robinhood for scummy business practices and terrified the rest of Wall Street. And though some might balk at the idea of a film dedicated to GameStop and money, it’s honestly fascinating to better understand how things shook out, even if the movie takes artistic liberties (of course it does). Still, the real impacts of Gill’s once-in-a-lifetime machinations will, at least according to the film, forever impact how people think about the market.
The illustriously weird Paul Dano plays Gill, whose kind face and gentle delivery bely his character’s internet persona, but weirdly sell his performance as trustworthy and true. Dano makes Gill lovable, even as his onscreen brother (Pete Davidson) sucks all the air out of the room with ball-busting pseudo humor and brotherly ribbing that takes up valuable time. Shailene Woodley appears as Gill’s wife, though, sadly, she has little to do outside of a brief moment of spousal tension that gets diffused before it even really begins.
Elsewhere, a series of interconnected vignettes focused on real-world billionaires like Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen), Ken Griffin (Nick Offerman) and Steve Cohen (Vincent D’Onofrio) intermesh with those of a new GameStop investors—including an RN (America Ferrera), a collegiate couple (Myha’la Herrold and Talia Ryder) and a GameStop employee (Anthony Ramos of Hamilton fame)—plus the founder-CEOs of Robinhood (Sebastian Stan and Rushi Kota). These sections might be the most fun, particularly when we see the folks from Robinhood stumble in interviews or hem and haw their way through what happened the day they wouldn’t let anyone else buy GameStop stocks (not super legal; nothing came of it, sadly), or how much new investors believed in Gill.
The whole GameStop debacle, you might recall, went before a Congressional committee in the end. And though nobody went to jail and the billionaires mainly just re-structured, the film tells us in a text scroll that the big bad finance bros and babes on Wall Street finally had to take amateur traders seriously. ‘Twas a moment in time, all told, but a bizarre and glorious one, and Dano’s showstopper speech about the market’s inherent unfairness feels so powerful. We love to see the rich sweat it out—we love to see smart money fail.
+Fun and funny; fascinating, both socially and financially speaking
-Requires some market knowledge; Pete Davidson is tedious
Directed by Gillespie
With Dano, Rogen, D’Onofrio, Offerman, Ferrera, etc.
Violet Crown, R, 105 min.