By Josh Reilly B. & George Bate
True stories have always been a popular form of inspiration for film and television. This year alone, Oppenheimer catapulted to over $900 million worldwide, the highest gross of any biopic in history, proving that history can be a unique tool when looking for new and exciting stories.
The same can be said for even more recent history, which was the basis for the new film Dumb Money. Based on the GameStop stock market phenomenon of early 2021, Dumb Money tells the story of some of the most important players in that world, from the man who predicted that betting on the video game store was a good bet, to the hedge fund managers going up against him, to the everyday people hoping to get rich off of all the confusion. Paul Dano plays Keith Gill, an amateur YouTuber and stock market analyst who is at the center of the saga, and becomes the bane of the existence of the billionaires involved in this story. The rest of the ensemble includes Pete Davidson, Seth Rogen, America Ferrera, Nick Offerman, Sebastian Stan, and more.
Adapting an event that happened just a few years ago into a full length feature movie could be considered risky, especially as the filmmakers are betting on audiences still caring enough about a past saga to live through the story all over again. However, because the GameStop stock situation was not too long ago, Dumb Money tells a story that many viewers will already know, hence the gamble on audiences still having a vested interest in these proceedings. Dumb Money succeeds by enthralling audiences in the story at hand, regardless of the prior knowledge one brings into the film, making it a David vs Goliath crowd pleaser that is sure to be a big hit with audiences.
One of the biggest strengths of Dumb Money is itsensemble. Paul Dano playing the central hero may feel risky, especially for audiences who remember him for playing disturbed characters like The Riddler in The Batman or Alex Jones in Prisoners. However, Dano shows a range that he arguably hasn’t displayed before in his career thus far, expertly playing a socially awkward, confident yet nervous YouTuber and stock market expert. As the lynchpin of the entire story, Dano carries much of the film, but does so in a way that allows other actors to have their moment in the spotlight as well. Seth Rogen is another highlight, moving away from the teenage-like character to playing an out of his depth financial manager whose world quickly crumbles around him. Rogen shows a particular maturity in this film as he infuses his usual humor with a dose of the real life man’s confused personality of arrogance and anxiety. The way in which the script flips back and forth between Rogen’s character, who could be described as the villain of the film, to Dano, to other members of the cast is impressive as well.
Dumb Money also succeeds in the way in which it delivers the nitty gritty specifics of the stock market. A film such as this largely depends on ensuring that the audience understands the subject matter at hand, making there be an educational process of sorts. But the filmmakers here clearly tried to achieve that without making it feel like a chore. Rather, information on the stock market that’s given to the viewer feels like a breeze rather than a necessity, and exists not only as necessary expiation but as part of the entertainment as well.
That is arguably the greatest achievement of Dumb Money. It’s genuinely a fun and entertaining film, and it feels rewarding to watch as well. Its light on its feet nature means that it works well as counter-programming for the many horror films releasing over the next few weeks, and Dumb Money might attract longtime fans of movies such as The Wolf of Wall Street or The Big Short. While it’s difficult to top a film like Martin Scorsese’s stock dramedy, Dumb Money is certainly better than The Big Short, both in terms of its comedic nature and entertainment value. Dumb Money is also refreshingly simple and humble, opting to simply tell the story at hand rather than aim for anything more pretentious.
Dumb Money is a crowd pleasing true story with an excellent ensemble cast. Paul Dano and Seth Rogen shine, as does Pete Davidson, and the film succeeds largely because of the quick and clean script that tells the story in a fun and entertaining manner, all while providing the inspirational feeling that audiences might be looking for.