Dumb Money movie review & film summary (2023)

September 9, 2023 - Movies

Paul Dano grounds the film as Keith Gill, aka Roaring Kitty, a relatively unknown personality on the Reddit channel wallstreetbets, who became massive when he orchestrated a short squeeze against GameStop. The simplest way to explain this is that major hedge funds make a fortune off the failure of companies, essentially betting that they will go under and profiting off job loss and financial ruin. When Gill convinced his followers, mostly young people, to buy GameStop stock, it skyrocketed many times over its initial low buy-in. Gill became a multi-millionaire on paper but held onto the stock, sending billionaires into a tizzy, leading to a day-trading company called RobinHood colluding with a hedge fund owner to stop stock trading. An open market relies on buying and selling, which means someone here cheated. It led to Congressional investigations, including implications that Gill himself had insider knowledge, because how could someone from the sector of investors that the fat cats call “dumb money” have lost them billions?

Working from a book by Ben Mezrich (who also wrote the non-fiction book adapted into “The Social Network”), Blum and Angelo tell this story across a pretty wide canvas. In Boston, there’s Gill, his wife Caroline (Shailene Woodley), and his brother Kevin (Pete Davidson), who can’t believe his nerdy sibling is having this kind of impact. They also highlight a few investors, including a nurse named Jenny (America Ferrera), a GameStop clerk named Marcus (Anthony Ramos), and a pair of college kids named Harmony (Talia Ryder) and Riri (Myha’la Herrold). On the other sideline, Seth Rogen nails the spoiled idiocy of Gabe Plotkin, Vincent D’Onofrio sketches the eccentric Steve Cohen, Sebastian Stan bumbles through the arc of RobinHood head Vlad Tenev, and Nick Offerman glares the relatively vile Ken Griffin into cinematic existence.

It’s a great cast, and Gillespie manages them well, never letting anyone steal the focus with a hammy performance. These kinds of broad pieces can often fail to cohere into one vision, and yet that’s not the case with “Dumb Money,” as Gillespie creates a strong supply of necessary information and character beats. But I could have used more of the latter in that sometimes “Dumb Money” lacks insight into the unique dynamics that brought this seismic financial shift to life. Yes, it’s not that movie, but there’s a version of “Dumb Money” that digs a little deeper, asking tougher questions about the forces of inequity and even how the pandemic impacted the event—everyone was at home watching Roaring Kitty clips, and trying to regain some semblance of control over a chaotic world. And one wonders if there wouldn’t have been more outrage over the whole thing if the pandemic and other issues of 2020-21 weren’t stealing headlines. 

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