It’s rare for a comedic biopic to find its heart while in the throws of a class war, but Dumb Money manages to pull it off and then some. Directed by Craig Gillespie (Fright Night, I, Tonya, Cruella), the film is based on the book The Antisocial Network by Ben Mezrich. Dumb Money depicts the events of the 2021 GameStop short squeeze, in which a Reddit page named r/WallStreetBets came together to buy GameStop stocks, pitting themselves against hedge funds that were counting on short-selling them. The David versus Goliath story isn’t new, but Dumb Money tells it with a nerdy twist.
At the head of the short squeeze is Keith Gill, also known as the Reddit user DeepF**kingValue and Roaring Kitty, played by Paul Dano. The handful of other characters who also short-squeezed Gamespot are Jennifer Campbell (America Ferrera), a nurse and fan of Roaring Kitty’s YouTube channel, Marcos (Anthony Ramos), a clerk at a GameStop, and a pair of college students named Riri (Myha’la Herrold) and Harmony (Talia Ryder). Shailene Woodley also plays Gill’s wife Caroline.
Taking Away the Dumb Money
In the other corner, we have Seth Rogen playing the head of a hedge fund, Gabe Plotkin, Nick Offerman as the 38th richest person in the world, Kenneth Griffin, and Vincent D’Onofrio as Steve Cohen, the majority owner of the New York Mets and the founder of Point72 Asset Management. We also have Sebastian Stan playing the dumbfounded CEO of Robinhood. Dumb Money starts in media res, as Plotkin runs around his house frantically in response to the surging prices of GameStop stock. Rogen plays him brilliantly, with an ignorant air, and a fearsome self-loathing.
Right from the start of the movie, it is made astonishingly clear how much the wealthy characters are worth compared to the net worth of the poor ones. Most characters get an introduction alongside their income status, with Griffin’s being worth billions and multiple characters holding onto serious debt. From the onset of the film, you know the players, the stakes, and who to root for. Dumb Money also lets its nerdy flag fly, with Gill making videos about his investments, deep dives on Reddit, and plenty of references to nerd culture.
Dumb Money doesn’t take itself too seriously, with some heartfelt beats and plenty of funny moments, even if not all of them land well. I was worried that the movie would fall into the trope of making fun of the thing that they should be celebrating, and while it does toe the line, it ultimately doesn’t make fun of nerd culture. Instead, the movie does a good job of laughing at itself and drawing out the more cringe and extreme corners of the internet for some great laughs.
The soundtrack is filled with some music that fits the tone of the film, and occasionally serves the humor, such is the case with a clever use of WAP. While it’s clear that the main focus of the film is the good versus evil story and the comedy, Dumb Money isn’t one note. It tends to break up the more in-depth technical jargon talk with comedic moments quite successfully, layering the story with montages that fill us in with how the vast array of characters are handling their current predicaments.
It’s a Win For the Little Guy
Perhaps the greatest triumph of Dumb Money is that while the actors might not be giving award-winning performances, everybody comes across as believable. Even Pete Davidson’s Kevin Gill has a few moments that ring true, which is hard to do when you’re the comedic relief. This isn’t Dano’s best performance, but he nails the nuance in so many moments that by the time he appears as a witness before the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services, it becomes hard not to cheer at the end of his statement.
The only thing dissatisfying about Dumb Money is that at the end of the day, while the Reddit users won, selling their shares for profits, the “bad guys” still walked away with their fortunes. This doesn’t make the film worse, more so it just paints a vivid picture of our current reality. The movie explains its title. The name refers to what hedge funds call individual stock traders. In their eyes, they’re seen as amateurish, and therefore the money they put in is dumb money, money that usually ends up in their pockets. The end of the film makes it clear that dumb money can be a threat.
Dumb Money manages to be entertaining while informative, and it never feels like you’re in a lecture. It’s well-paced enough that I was never distracted during the 104-minute runtime, even if some of the scenes did make it feel a little longer than that. But other than a few minor gripes the film is a terrific watch that is without a doubt, one of 2023’s best. It would make a great pairing with The Big Short if you wanted to set yourself up for a double feature. You can catch Dumb Money in theaters now.