Dumb Money Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Craig Gillespie
Stars: Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, Shailene Woodley, America Ferrera, Pete Davidson, Anthony Ramos, Vincent D’Onofrio, Nick Offerman, Myha’la Herrold, Talia Ryder, Kate Burton, Clancy Brown, Sebastian Stan, Dane DeHaan, Olivia Thirlby.
During the COVID lockdowns of 2020-2021 a rather intriguing financial drama played out that shook up Wall Street and changed the game forever.
Keith Gill (Paul Dano, from Prisoners, etc) was a mild-mannered financial analyst and amateur investor who discussed stock tips on his YouTube channel under the alias of Roaring Kitty. From his homebuilt basement studio in Brockton Massachusetts Gill would broadcast his stock tips and market analysis. When he made the educated guess that, during the lockdown homebound teens would be playing lots of video games to help pass the time, he suggested that a good investment was the retail game store GameStop. He believed that the stock was undervalued and had invested all his own savings in the stock. And when he learned that a bunch of high-powered Wall Street hedge funds were trying to short the stock to make huge profits he rallied his legion of supporters to invest.
Amongst those who followed Keith’s tips were Jenny (America Ferrara, from the tv series Ugly Betty, etc), a nurse; cash strapped college students Riri (Myha’la Herrold) and Harmony (Talia Ryder) who owed a small fortune in college debts; and Marcus (Anthony Ramos, from Hamilton, etc), who was a salesclerk at a GameStop retail outlet in a mall.
The stock suddenly went ballistic, causing the Wall Street brokers to panic and resort to some dirty tactics to squash the small investors and save their own fortunes. Amongst the hedge fund managers who lost a fortune was Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen), the boss of investment firm Melvin Capital Management who was slow to react to the changing market.
This David versus Goliath like story is directed by Australian born filmmaker Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya, etc) whose fast-paced style keeps things moving along. The film follows those other films like The Big Short and The Wolf Of Wall Street that explored the financial shenanigans and the ethos that “greed is good” and critiqued the rapacious nature of capitalism and the greedy Wall Street firms. But Gillespie gives the material here more of a comedic take. Some of the financial talk will go over the heads of many in the audience.
Dumb Money is based on the non-fiction book The Antisocial Network, which was written by Ben Mezrich who had earlier written the book The Accidental Billionaires which detailed the founding of social media network Facebook and the bitter lawsuits that followed as its creators fell out. That book was filmed by David Fincher as The Social Network. Somewhat ironically, two of the people involved in the creation of Facebook – twins Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss – are amongst the producers of Dumb Money. The book has been adapted to the screen by scriptwriters Lauren Shuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo (who have written for tv series including Orange Is The New Black, etc).
Gillespie has assembled a solid ensemble cast to flesh out the main characters. Dano makes for a likeable if somewhat nerdy Gill, while Shailene Woodley is solid as his patient and supportive wife Caroline. Rogen is also cast largely against type and essentially plays it straight. Pete Davidson brings some much needed energy and dark humour to his role as Kevin, Keith’s slacker brother. But the likes of Vincent D’Onofrio and Nick Offerman’s Wall Street hedge fund managers are largely underdeveloped.
While entertaining Dumb Money does gloss over much of the complex details of what actually happened, and audiences wanting to learn more would do well to check out the Netflix documentary Eat The Rich: The GameStop Saga, which delves deeper into events and adds clarity.