Dumb Money


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Dumb Money
"The writers care about even their smallest characters." | Photo: DeAPlaneta/Courtesy of San Sebastian Film Festival

There's nothing dumb about the latest film from Craig Gillespie, which is smart enough to know how much of the machinations of Wall Street to explain in order to grease the wheels of this true tale of the little guys taking on the big guys without gumming up the works in the progress. Also, unusually, for a Hollywood film, it is set against the backdrop of the Covid pandemic, which lends its emotional elements an extra, relatable poignancy. This coupled with a punk energy, humour at the expense of the right people and a pace that makes you want to cling on to the story, make for an entertaining gallop through a slice of modern financial history.

Keith Gill (Paul Dano, bringing a nerdy soulfulness to the role) is a young dad from Massachusetts who has been gradually gaining followers for his YouTube videos about investing, not least because he posts his balance sheet online daily. He considers the jewel in his portfolio to be shares in video game store GameStop, which he believes is undervalued, slinging on a variety of cat jumpers and a ninja-style bandana and declaring repeatedly to the world, "I like the stock!".

In a nice touch, as the ensemble cast are introduced, intertitles explain how much they are - and more frequently - are not worth. In Keith's corner are first-time investors including nurse and single mum Jenny (America Ferrrera), college buddies Riri (Myha'la Herrold) and Harmony (Talia Ryder) and skint GameStop worker Marcos (Anthony Ramos). Meanwhile, representing Goliath are the hedge fund managers who are short selling the stock in the belief it will crash Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen), Ken Griffin (Nick Offerman) and Steve Cohen (Vincent D'Onofrio). Does the phrase "short selling the stock" mean very little to you? Do not be afraid because writers Lauren Schuker Blum, Rebecca Angelo and Ben Mezrich are smart enough to give broad brush information here without starting to really sweat the maths stuff. Suffice it to say, we understand this is greedy rich people who love nothing more than to bet on failure, against people - those branded "dumb money" by Wall Street - with not much cash who have faith in a cause and believe in keeping their skin in the game.

That cause is to teach the greedy gits of this world a lesson and Gillespie's film barrels along with what happens next, as the stock climbs, making Gill a paper millionaire almost overnight, while the hedge fund guys start to fear they might lose their very nicely tailored shirt. What makes Gillespie's film so much fun is the wide cast of characters that revolve around the central tale. There's Gill's sweetly worked relationship with his wife Caroline (Shailene Woodley) for a start, but also great support from Pete Davidson as his toking, delivery guy brother Kevin, with Kate Burton and Clancy Brown also making their presence felt as the boys' parents, as the whole family grieves for the loss of Keith and Kevin's sister to Covid.

The writers care about even their smallest characters with Larry Owens also making an impact as Jenny's fellow nurse Chris and Dane DeHaan having some fun as Marcos' boss. As the stock takes off, the whole affair begins to reverberate right up to the government and the film certainly gives the side eye to declarations that it's really possible to get one up on The Man. As the film reaches a crescendo that uses real world footage to blur the line between truth and retelling, you'll be hard pushed not to feel fully invested in the desire for a happy ending.

Reviewed on: 30 Sep 2023
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Based on a true story of everyday people who flipped the script on Wall Street and got rich by turning GameStop into the world's hottest company.
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Director: Craig Gillespie

Writer: Lauren Schuker Blum, Rebecca Angelo, Ben Mezrich

Starring: America Ferrera, Dane DeHaan, Shailene Woodley, Seth Rogen, Anthony Ramos, Pete Davidson

Year: 2023

Runtime: 104 minutes

Country: US


Toronto 2023
SSFF 2023

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