DUMB MONEY | USA | 2023 | 104m | English
Directed By: Craig Gillespie
Everybody expects GameStop to fail. With this struggling bricks-and-mortar business further drained by the pandemic, it feels like it’s only a matter of time. Hedge fund managers like Gabe Plotkin (Rogen) bet billions on the hope that it does. Keith Gill (Dano) thinks otherwise. Operating out of his basement as an amateur investor, he’s been adamant for years that the company is undervalued, posting regular updates and videos online to make his case. When a few average citizens start to pay attention, it sparks a bonfire. Keith’s wager becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as big-name investors like Gabe feel the squeeze of its rising stock price. It isn’t long before big money does everything in its power to throw water on the grassroots movement.
Dumb Money captures the rabid creativity of the internet and the power of community many found there in 2021. What started as a silly gamble quickly turned into a national battle of wits between the haves and the have-nots, with nurses, college students, and even rank-and-file GameStop employees jumping into the stock market to try and prove the billionaires wrong. Gillespie brings his wicked sense of humour to this outrageous story from our outrageous times, bolstered by an extraordinary cast that includes Pete Davidson, Shailene Woodley, and America Ferrera.
TIFF REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus
RATING 4 out of 5
Dumb Money is a wildly entertaining and informative depiction of the 2021 GameStop short squeeze featuring an all-star cast,brought to life with a great directorial style from Craig Gillespie creating a tremendous crowd pleaser.
Craig Gillespie has been responsible for entertaining films in recent years such as I, Tonya and Cruella, both which feature a distinct and self aware comedic style that made both films critically acclaimed and audience favourites. For his next film, Gillespie turns his eye to the GameStop short squeeze of 2021, which saw a group of Reddit users betting against powerful hedge fund investors by investing in the stock market, and inflating the value of GameStop stocks, a struggling video game retail business. It was a stranger than fiction story that took the media by storm for a number of weeks in January and February 2021, but one that had been brewing for much longer, which the film explores. Similar to both The Big Short and The Social Network, in both theme and story telling style, Dumb Money is an excellent watch that will have you laughing while disgusted by the greed of the wealthy elite, and cheering for the ordinary man to win against Wall Street, although it does not reach the gold standard set by its predecessors.
Chronicling the GameStop short squeeze, Dumb Money tells the story of an unlikely group of investors that pulled off one of the most significant short squeezes in financial history against the powerful forces of Wall Street by investing in an undervalued and discarded stock of a failing company: GameStop. Classified as “dumb money” by Wall Street, the harsh term Wall Street uses to describe a group of individual, noninstitutionalized investors, it’s a tale of corporate greed and corruption and the underdog in all of us in one of the most bizarre financial events of the century.
Everyone loves a story of the ordinary man taking on a ginormous corporation or the rich, and Dumb Money is truly the ultimate David versus Goliath story. A group of Reddit users, with no education on the stock market, banded together and squeezed the biggest hedge funds in America, resulting in millions of dollars being made by them on one of the most unthinkable investment decisions. The screenplay excels in depicting the millennial internet craze driving this financial anomaly, as well as explaining the investment techniques at play. Much like The Big Short, the film uses comedic techniques to explain these elements of the story to keep the audience entertained and captivated by the story, instead of giving the textbook explanation. Fitting into the millennial and gen z nature of the story, the film explains these elements using TikTok reels and YouTube videos, which while this technique won’t work in every film, it is the perfect match for this story. While the comedic elements of the screenplay create some standout moments, the comedy never for a second cheapens the incredible story, the shock and disgust audiences will feel towards Wall Street’s actions, or the heroic and rousing triumph of the investors who made hundreds of thousands of dollars that is at the centre of the film’s story. Even with the gross ending of the film, showing that the rich and powerful are not bound by the same set of rules as the rest of the world, this is truly a sensational story that screenwriters Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo do a wonderful job of adapting for the screen.
Where the screenplay falls short is the minimal amount of screen time it devotes to each character, and the development of their individual arcs over the course of the film. It’s an ensemble piece, following various investors, their families, the hedge fund managers, and various corporate participants in the crisis, allowing only a small amount of time in the film’s one hundred and four minute run time for each character. The screenplay focuses enough on the characters so the audience gets to know each character on the surface, but you never get to fully understand the majority of them on a deeper and more personal level. The only real life individual provided this honour is Paul Dano’s Keith Gill, the Reddit user who began the movement, as we get a full snapshot of his family life, personal fight to make big money on GameStop stocks, and the effect the entire crisis had on him and his family. Even with a small amount of screentime, with such a talented cast, they all quickly distract from the fact that you as an audience member want to know more about the individuals they are portraying.
Leading the film is Dano as Keith Gill, with a quiet yet purposeful performance that captures the ordinary guy behind the GameStop stock craze. Dano makes Gill an everyday hero, an individual that you cannot help but respect and look up to, while ensuring that his nerdy tendencies that were the basis for his online platform are never for a second lost. Seth Rogen is perfectly cast as the smug and arrogant hedge fund manager Gabe Plotkin, who finds his world spiralling out of control as he begins losing millions by the second, delivering numerous laugh out loud moments throughout the film. America Ferrera is endearing as a single mother Jenny who has bought into Gill’s investment plan, though you desperately want to spend more time with her character as you can’t help but identify with her struggle. Sebastian Stan is everything you need as Vlad Tenev, one of the owners of the company whose technology is being used by Gill and his followers to invest in GameStop, capturing the slimy individual willing to break the law just to keep the powerful titans of Wall Street happy. And one of my personal favourite actresses Shailene Woodley is wonderful as Gill’s wife Caroline, bringing a great amount of heart to the film and Gill’s personal story, while sharing a beautiful and loving chemistry with Dano. The rest of the cast includes the likes of Pete Davidson, Nick Offerman, Vincent D’Onofrio, Kate Burton, Clancy Brown, Anthony Ramos, and Dane DeHann, each of whom is great in their respective roles.
Mixing comedy with a financial crisis to dramatise the GameStop short squeeze of 2021 driven by Reddit users, TikTok reels and YouTube videos, Dumb Money is a truly winning film that audiences are going to love, entertaining them from start to finish. From great performances led by the always excellent Paul Dano, a fascinating screenplay that both explains the mechanisms that led to this financial crisis, Dumb Money is a truly rousing tale of the underdog taking on the elite and powerful that is destined to become a hit.