"Dumb Money" stars Paul Dano, Pete Davidson, Vincent D'Onofrio, America Ferrera, Nick Offerman, Anthony Ramos, Sebastian Stan, Shailene Woodley, and Seth Rogen. Released on September 15, 2023, the film has a group of investors uniting to squeeze money from GameStop.
The film was directed by Craig Gillespie, who also directed films such as "Mr. Woodcock", "Million Dollar Arm", "I, Tonya", and "Cruella". It is based on the 2021 book The Antisocial Network by Ben Mezrich. Stock markets can be boring to talk about since they're all about calculations, businesses, etc. However, we didn't realize they could offer some crazy stories amid the tedious conversations. One particular story occurred during the early stages of the pandemic when businesses were heavily affected by the unknown disease. But none of them got hit harder than the video game retailer GameStop. What happened afterward became one of the game-changing events in Wall Street history, which is now the latest movie from Craig Gillespie, who's no stranger to biographical films. Since this year's awards season has begun, I decided to start this Oscar binge-watch list by watching the wealthy billionaires lose millions of dollars to a bunch of Reddit users. Is this fact-based comedy bankable enough to honor this bizarre piece of Wall Street history? Let's find out.
The story chronicles the events surrounding GameStop's downfall during the COVID-19 pandemic and the GameStop short squeeze a year later. It is told from the perspective of Keith Gill (Dano), a relatively low-income family man in Massachusetts who starts a YouTube channel talking about stocks. When Keith discovers that a subreddit called "r/WallStreetBets" is formed to squeeze money from GameStop's stocks, he decides to get in on the action. As a result, he and his wife Caroline (Woodley), along with several Reddit users, gain tons of money while the stock market company CEOs start to lose them. Unfortunately, their victory doesn't last long, as the impending consequences threaten to shut everything down.
I'm usually all in for specific topics as long as they hold my interest, whether they are related to history or science. However, there's only one exception that doesn't grab my attention as much as others, and it involves the stock market. I get that it's part of what holds businesses together and puts roofs over people's heads, but the process of how it functions is very complex unless you're an investor or a business owner. Even trying to explain it myself is enough to make my brain explode. Regardless, I was interested in seeing it before the other new releases because of its cast and director. Plus, I wondered how this phenomenon came to be when we were busy sheltering ourselves from the outside world. So, did I make the right call? Yes, I did. While far from a masterpiece, "Dumb Money" painted a ridiculous yet immensely entertaining portrait of a David-vs-Goliath situation involving stocks.
While the movie focuses on Keith's side of the scenario, it also explores the perspectives of other characters, including Jennifer Campbell (Ferrera), a nurse who's also a fan of Keith's videos. There's also Marcos (Ramos), a GameStop store clerk, Riri (Myha'la Herrold), and Harmony (Talia Ryder), two college students. Of course, it didn't forget about the hedge fund managers, such as Steve Cohen (D'Onofrio) and Gabe Plotkin (Rogen). The film ensured that everyone gets their share of attention from a narrative and talent perspective, even the ones responsible for robbing money from those who need it. The result is a satisfyingly sublime outlook of Wall Street's dark side and the victims who stood up against their self-indulgent actions. More importantly, it's funny, well-paced, and thought-provoking for its commentary. Even though it follows most of the blueprints seen in other biopic underdog movies, "Dumb Money" is another film that commits to the formula through its decent storytelling and direction.
Unsurprisingly, Craig Gillespie is familiar with bringing unbelievable true stories to life on the big screen and making regular comedies. Except for "The Finest Hours", I've been impressed by Gillespie's efforts in providing solid cinematic versions of fact-based events so far. Of course, "I, Tonya" reigns supreme as my favorite film from Gillespie, but I admired his work on "Dumb Money" despite that. Gillespie makes one of the least exciting topics on the planet fascinating by squeezing the charm and liveliness from the stock market and giving them to his characters. There were a few moments that could have been wilder based on the marketing, but the compelling mixture of comedy and drama kept it from crashing down immediately. The screenplay by Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo was also suitable for showcasing honesty in its commentary, providing the complexity of the stock market business, and being accessible to everyone.
The film's presentation of the characters benefited enormously from its cast, including Paul Dano. I enjoyed Keith's side of the story the most because of the perspective of success through social media and his role in expanding the revolution involving GameStop stocks. Of course, it's also due to Paul Dano, who did a fantastic job with his performance as a stock analyst/YouTuber. His charisma and dramatic side help Dano humanize Keith in a diverting and even heartfelt way. He might have a shot at getting some recognition during awards season, but we'll see when that time comes. Pete Davidson continues to deliver solid work, this time as Keith's stubborn brother Kevin, and America Ferrera was decent as Jennifer. Sebastian Stan, who previously collaborated with Gillespie in "I, Tonya" and "Pam & Tommy", did very well in portraying Vlad Tenev, the CEO of Robinhood, who's responsible for preventing users from buying GameStop stocks.
Overall, "Dumb Money" bets it all against the Wall Street guys and comes out winning big with a compelling and easily satisfying portrayal of the unbelievably true piece of stock market history. This stock market climb was mildly affected by its familiar biopic elements and restraint on the film's wild presentation. However, it manages to outweigh its flaws with a substantial amount of talent regarding its cast, including Paul Dano, and director Craig Gillespie. More importantly, it serves as a respectable call to action against the greedy Wall Street funders for not giving their fair share to the people who need it. Hopefully, after that whole fiasco, they started coming to their senses. As someone who's not into stock discussions as much as others, I was surprised at how entertaining it was to see the characters talk about this topic. It's not a perfect representation of the subject matter, but I can take a good one over a boring-as-a-documentary one any day. This film is worth checking out whether you're into stocks or not.