A movie about the GameStop stocks incident was inevitable, given how it captured the imagination of the public in 2021. In Dumb Money, Oscar nominee Paul Dano plays Keith Gill, the redditor and YouTuber who hatched a plan to invest in retailer GameStop, countering the hedge funds who were shorting the stock, and making him and his followers rich in the process.
Financial jargon can be a little bit wearying, as the film forgoes The Big Short’s sexy explanations in the hope that emotions convey the path of the story. For the most part, they do – not everyone who bet on GameStop was doing so to upend the system, and for the most part it was an anomaly that enforced the status quo rather than ended it. Gill isn’t exactly a modern Robin Hood, but it’s hard to be too sad for Hedge Fund investors.
The ethics are messy, which is why I, Tonya director Craig Gillespie is the best person to tell the story. He puts the viewer in the shoes of those involved. What does it feel like when your gamble pays off, and what does it look like to lose ten figures in a day? Connecting with characters emotionally overrides some of the stodgy details.
Another boon is terrific casting. Acting chameleon Dano slips perfectly into the sweatband of an ordinary man with a big idea. On the side of the suits, the stern faces of Nick Offerman and Vincent D’Onofrio represent The Establishment perfectly, while Seth Rogen is impressive as a younger hedge fund manager. America Ferrara and Pete Davidson ably fill out Gill’s world, playing people who just want to have something left over when the bills are paid.
Ultimately, Dumb Money has too many moving parts to be truly gripping. However, as a flashy dramatisation of a curious moment in modern history, it delivers.