Dumb Money Review – TIFF 2023

Power to the Players

Dumb Money
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Dumb Money

Brutalist Review Style (Version 2)

Heading into TIFF 2023, I did not think I would be talking about a movie about GameStop, but here we are looking at Dumb Money, the story of how the stop became one of the biggest rallies during the pandemic. Back in early 2021, small-time financial advisor Keith Gill (Paul Dano), better known by his internet username “Roaring Kitty,” invested $50,000 of his life savings towards GameStop stock and was posting his analysis via YouTube live-streams and posted on the r/wallstreetbets subreddit. 

Although the stock was being shorted by hedge funds (i.e. investors basically betting on a stock to fail by plummeting the stock’s value), Gill’s posts managed to be so popular on the subreddit that it rallied people all over the internet to also invest in the GameStop stock, raising the stock’s price to insane levels. While it was good for the new buyers, this also caused hedge fund investors like Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen) to lose billions, turning Gill’s initial $50,000 investment into upwards of 50 million at its peak, amongst many others.

Dumb Money

Internet culture is so unpredictable and moves at such an insanely fast rate that it’s nearly impossible to accurately depict it cinematically in a way that doesn’t feel like a parent doing the Steve Buscemi “fellow kids” meme. The first act is arguably Dumb Money’s weakest in that it spends a lot of time trying to explain not just financial jargon but reddit jargon at the same time. Thankfully, the movie picks up steam once director Craig Gillespie doesn’t spend too much time on it and centers on the “Davids vs. Goliath” of it all. 

Dumb Money makes good use of its ensemble cast, jumping from a variety of perspectives between the Gill family, the executives, and regular people all over the country who decide to invest after watching Gill’s streams, varying between a struggling nurse/single mother (America Ferrara), a pair of broke college students (Talia Ryder and Myha’la Herrold) as well as a GameStop clerk (Anthony Ramos). Dumb Money wisely also makes no qualms in showing the wealthy execs as irredeemably smug – especially in the case of Nick Offerman or Vincent D’Onofrio’s performances – or complete buffoons until the squeeze happens. It’s hard not to feel some sort of catharsis watching the little guys win big, especially during such a time of massive economic disparity. 

“The first act is arguably Dumb Money’s weakest in that it spends a lot of time trying to explain not just financial jargon but reddit jargon at the same time.“

That being said, the irony is not lost that a movie as explicitly “eat the rich” as Dumb Money happens to also be a Hollywood-ized retelling released by a major studio in the middle of a massive Hollywood strike while also being executively produced by the Winklevoss twins. (Yes, those very same Winklevoss twins Armie Hammer played in The Social Network).

Dumb Money

Also, with such a massive cast, there were a few actors I wish had either gotten more screen time or more development. Sebastian Stan’s turn as Robinhood app co-founder Vlad Tenev is laugh-out-loud hilarious, but his appearances are so brief you forget he’s even in the movie most of the time. Shailene Woodley delivers a solid performance as Caroline Gill, but you don’t get to know much about her beyond being the supportive wife.

Walking into the theatre, I was afraid that Dumb Money would be wholly obnoxious, similar to Don’t Look Up. Thankfully, that was never really the case. It’s just a great real-life underdog story. Even if its depiction of internet culture was hit-or-miss, there were a lot of really great laugh-out-loud moments between the whole cast (especially in the case of Rogen. You won’t walk out with a manual on how to play the stock market, but you definitely won’t feel dumb watching it.

Final Thoughts

Shakyl Lambert
Shakyl Lambert

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