Finance films have come a long way, with 2015’s The Big Short, taking what can be dull concepts in to a smart, pacey, comic gem. And Dumb Money has followed in similar fashion in this adaptation of Ben Mezrich’s The Antisocial Network.
It assembles a huge cast split between ‘David’s’ and ‘Goliath’s,’ the David’s are individual investors, regular ordinary working people such a nurse Jenny (America Ferrera) a GameStop employee Marcus (Anthony Ramos) some collage students and the main man who started it all, Keith Gill (Paul Dano) who goes by the online persona’s Roaring Kitty on YouTube and DeepFuckingValue on Reddit. He is supported by his loving & patient wife Caroline (Shailene Woodley).
The Goliath’s are comprised of Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen) a hedge fund manager for Melvin Capital, multibillionaire investors Steve Cohen (Vincent D’Onofrio) & Ken Griffin (Nick Offerman).
The film defines the phrase ‘dumb money,’ as we see Rogan’s character explain that individual, inexperienced & uninformed ‘retail’ investors using apps to purchase stock will always lose and the mega rich are oh so happy to take that ‘dumb money‘.
The film introduces all the main characters alongside their net worth which ranges from minus -$45K to $16 billion emphasising the scale of what we’re about to see, with the tone of the film suggesting it’s about time wall street billionaires had a dose of reality.
In 2014 Gabe Plotkin (Rogen) started to short GameStop stock, it was seen as a failing business, poorly run and not moving forward with the times with regards to the threat of emerging digital sales. Similar business practices are what put companies like Blockbuster out of business and this was a strategy that actually worked for Plotkin, their short position was strong. Plotkin expected the pandemic to be the final nail in the coffin.
But what Plotkin didn’t foresee was the symbolism of GameStop and the nostalgia attached to that in a time when we were all isolated in a pandemic. Many young people turned to gaming for entertainment and means of communication with friends and family, then here comes elitist Wall Street hedge funds sticking the knife in, it was a perfect storm.
Towards the end of 2020 Keith Gill (Paul Dano) at the time an analyst, modest YouTuber and stock nerd, which he is regularly reminded of and ridiculed by his underachieving lazy brother Kevin Gill (Pete Davidson). Gill straps his red headband on and takes to YouTube to make a video about what he feels is an undervalued stock in GameStop.
This is the start of an unprecedented short squeeze fueled by a social media culture of low-level investors trying to boost its value to stick it to Wall Street. The fallout is monumental, leading to something never seen before and the change of short selling forever.
Alongside the drama and the ups & downs there is also a brilliant comedic tone and that is mostly through Pete Davidson, he has impeccable delivery and is a constant sarcastic torment to his brother.
Director Craig Gillespie has demonstrated before with I, Tonya, his ability to delve into working-class lives, their hopes & desires and he’s done just as well with this showing compassion and control as the film intersects the large ensemble cast as they quickly switch back and forth between ecstasy, disbelief and fear, as we go from dorm rooms to conference rooms and even congressional hearings.
Dumb Money is well-executed, engrossing & funny, it perfectly captures the times in which we now live, the power of social media and the ability of ordinary people to come together on a huge scale.
Dumb Money will be released world wide September 29. With select theaters screening from September 22 in the UK & US.