The frenzy surrounding the 2021 GameStop short squeeze reached such a level that even those unfamiliar with the financial world were made aware of it thanks to the internet. It’s no surprise that a film about a group of Redditors using memes to drive up the price of a penny stock, causing Wall Street analysts to question everything, would be expected to be funny. However, Craig Gillespie’s film, based on Ben Mezrich’s book ‘The Antisocial Network,’ is much more than that. “Dumb Money” is an uncompromising laugh riot that captivates viewers for its entire 100-minute runtime.
“Dumb Money” tells the story of Keith Gill (Paul Dano), a marketing professional and YouTuber from Brockton, Massachusetts. Gill’s decision to invest nearly $50,000 in call options for GameStop, a struggling video game retailer, earns him laughter from his friends, including finance bro Briggsy (Deniz Akdeniz), who jokingly calls GameStop “the next Blockbuster.” Despite the ridicule, Gill believes in the stock and continues to share his analyses with a small but loyal audience on the subreddit WallStreetBets, using the usernames DeepF***ingValue and Roaring Kitty on YouTube. As the stock price rapidly rises, a “revolution” begins, and it becomes clear that Gill is not alone in his sentiments.
Amidst the numbers on balance sheets and charts are real people risking their hard-earned money based on the advice of a YouTuber wearing a cat-themed t-shirt and a bandana. For frontline worker Jennifer Campbell (America Ferrera), who has had a disastrous year due to the pandemic, investing in GameStop represents her only hope of paying off debt and providing a better life for her child. College student Harmony (Talia Ryder) sees it as a way to defy the hedge fund firms that have long controlled Wall Street, while her supportive girlfriend Riri (Myha’la Herrold) wants her to view it as a means of paying off student loans. Marc os (Anthony Ramos), an unhappy GameStop employee and immigrant, joins the cause because he needs the financial gains Gill refers to as “tendies.”
Directed by Craig Gillespie, “Dumb Money” boasts an impressive cast that brings out the best in their characters. Pete Davidson delivers absurd one-liners and ripostes as Keith’s unreliable brother Kevin, threatening to steal the spotlight from the earnest performance of Paul Dano, who portrays Gill as the messianic figure of r/WallStreetBets, turning his $50,000 investment into $50 million.
What makes “Dumb Money” even more intriguing is the irony that a film industry that has often partnered with Wall Street has produced an unyielding movie that ridicules the top 1%. The movie manages to capitalize on the GameStop event while also being wonderfully written, staged, and performed. It is sure to please audiences looking for an entertaining Friday evening.
The film effectively portrays the actions of the underdogs, the invisible mob of Redditors, through montages of newsreels, memes, and TikToks. This ironic presentation simultaneously spoofs the situation and highlights the shock experienced by the Western world when it realized that these “internet nerds and their memes” actually hold influence in the modern world.
“Dumb Money” is a fast-paced film that could benefit from a shorter intermission. It doesn’t waste time exposing new flaws in the trading system and instead delivers a straightforward David vs. Goliath story with a concise, simplified, and linear screenplay. By focusing on the fight of the little guy against Wall Street’s gatekeeping, the film eliminates the jargon of retail trading and keeps audiences engaged throughout.
Every moment of the film is entertaining, even a Congressional hearing that manages to elicit chuckles and cheers, especially with the iconic line “I like the stock.” The hearing, conducted via video call, juxtaposes Gill’s brave fight with the happenings in Griffin’s room, providing a clear contrast of how the two sides function. Moments like these, along with Jennifer’s scene at a gas station, humanize the characters, transforming them from mere numbers on a chart to individuals with real emotions, effectively adding emotional weight to the film.
Craig Gillespie skillfully directs the film, ensuring that the talented cast delivers exceptional performances. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that viewers would watch the film again solely to enjoy Pete Davidson’s hilarious wit and timing as Keith’s unreliable brother Kevin. However, it’s important not to overlook the earnest and grounded performance of Paul Dano, who convincingly portrays the cat-themed messiah of r/WallStreetBets, turning $50,000 into $50 million.
It’s fascinating to see a film industry that has ties to Wall Street produce such an unflinching movie that mocks the top 1%. With its excellent writing, staging, and performances, “Dumb Money” proves to be an appealing option for a Friday evening.