Starring: Paul Dano, Pete Davidson, Vincent D’Onofrio, America Ferrera, Nick Offerman, Anthony Ramos, Sebastian Stan, Shailene Woodley, and Seth Rogen
Director: Craig Gillespie
If you're going to tackle a true story as recent as the events of Dumb Money, you better bring something new or innovative to the table. Not only does director Craig Gillespie not do that, but he focuses on the most surface level aspects of the events that unfolded. However, the biggest sin is in how seriously the subject matter is handled. The movement that brought us "stonks," "gay bears," and "tendies" shies away from its absurdity (save for some memes and TikToks flashed on screen), while Pete Davidson provides the only real comic relief. This one could’ve been fun, but instead it’s kind of forgettable.
It’s not a good sign that my first thought after watching Dumb Money was, “I’ve seen worse.” The story itself is fascinating, and if handled correctly, it could’ve been the funny and entertaining middle finger to Wall Street it aspires to be. Instead, the film overextends itself with needless and underdeveloped subplots that don’t do much to enhance what we know already. With the events of the film happening very recently, the movie’s presentation is way too dull to distinguish itself or justify its existence, making me think it’s going to become irrelevant almost immediately.
Dumb Money is based on true events, focusing on everyday people fighting to make a difference within a corrupt system - of course I liked it. The entire cast turns in kick-ass performances, with Pete Davidson, shockingly, making me laugh without simultaneously pissing me off. It reveals with absolute clarity why there has been a tectonic shift in how our society deals with the decisions regarding “work” and the re-alignment of what we find important. Cat memes and irreverence may not be enough to elevate it to the likes of The Big Short, but it’s still a great watch.
Dumb Money is filled to the brim with incredible actors, and naturally, there is not a bad performance among them, even if Paul Dano steals the show. That said, the film’s first two acts are a little dull, playing host to way too many characters, most of whom never really interact with each other. This leads to the plot feeling a little thin, causing the film to come across more like an interconnected series of shorts than a full-length feature. Admittedly, though, whilst the majority of Dumb Money lacks substance, it is saved by its final 45 minutes.
While some may call Dumb Money “a poor man’s The Big Short,” which it kind of is, the movie is still a pretty engaging and fun look at the stock market for the underdogs. Though admittedly pretty generic, it’s briskly paced, and the stacked cast led by Paul Dano is entertaining and slapstick-funny throughout. Overall, director Craig Gillespie manages to deliver a crowd pleaser, but to be better, it needed to be more fleshed out as there are too many character stories happening all at once. They just aren’t explored enough.
Dumb Money is an entertaining two-handed experience. On the one hand, constantly cutting to video-clip montages and news stories stunted any tension the film’s multiple characters tried infusing into this David vs. Goliath story. That is until its other hand, the fabulously likable ensemble, rallies together like the real-life Reddit users who upended Hedge Fund managers’ hold on the market. The deeper into Dumb Money you get, the more director Craig Gillespie pushes the momentum through its captivating cast, and it’s as thrilling as the brilliantly pitch-perfect needle drops placed throughout the film.
Dumb Money is a fun, stylish, and fast-paced film, driven by the performances of its fantastic and immensely likeable cast, most notably Paul Dano as Keith Gill. It ditches the more complicated aspects of the GameStop saga in favour of focusing on the stories of the small traders who had everything to lose but rallied together to support the movement. It had me rooting for them each step of the way. Surprisingly, it also represents life during the pandemic in an understated and relatable way that I haven't seen yet in a dramatic depiction of the time.
This film was reviewed by Nick and Adriano as part of Bitesize Breakdown's coverage of the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival.