Dumb Money

New dad Keith Gill (Paul Dano) worked as a financial analyst at Mass Mutual insurance company in Boston by day and spent many an evening in his Brockton ranch’s basement broadcasting as YouTube amateur stock guru Roaring Kitty backed up by wallstreetbets on Reddit.  He gained folks’ trust by sharing his balance sheet and when he decided the mall chain store Gamestop was undervalued, declaring ‘I like the stock,’ ordinary people like him started to buy in.  This was not at all what the big hedge fund managers who’d shorted the stock wanted to see, but they weren’t prepared for class warfare with the retail investors they disparagingly referred to as “Dumb Money.”

Laura's Review: B-

Working with a script from 'Orange Is the New Black's' Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo (adapting Ben Mezrich's 'The Antisocial Network'), director Craig Gillespie’s ("Lars and the Real Girl," "I, Tonya") latest social comedy is a well laid out instructional on the Gamestop stock phenomenon that plays like “The Big Short” for Dummies.  After first meeting Melvin Capital Management’s Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen) jogging along the expanse of his massive new oceanside estate to ‘W.A.P.,’ we join his eventual nemesis Keith explaining his Gamestop gambit to investment buddy Briggsy (Deniz Akdeniz) at a Boston bar.  Briggsy calls it a bad bet, but when their waitress (Avery Cole)      hears Keith’s throwing his entire savings of $53K at it, she’s willing to bet on Keith.

Paul Dano’s laid back, open faced portrayal inspires this kind of faith.  He’s a good guy, happily interrupting his live feed to take over child rearing duties from his wife Caroline (Shailene Woodley) and joshingly responding to the online comments that come pouring in to the man who favors tees adorned with cats and a red band tied around his forehead.  This couple is anything but greedy, as evinced at a family dinner when Keith’s Doordash delivery brother Kevin (Pete Davidson) tells their parents (Kate Burton and Clancy Brown) Keith’s now worth $11 million and they think he’s joking as Keith’s said nothing about it.  He also refuses to sell, ‘diamond hands’ becoming a motto for he and his followers who are now delighting in watching corporate raiding billionaires sweat.

Gillespie counterbalances Plotkin, Point72 Ventures’ Steve Cohen (Vincent D'Onofrio) and Citadel LLC’s Ken Griffin (Nick Offerman) with a few of Keith’s investing followers.  Jenny (America Ferrera) is a single mom and nurse whose friend and work colleague Chris (Larry Owens) continually cautions her about staying in too long.  College student Harmony Williams (Talia Ryder, "Never Rarely Sometimes Always"), owing $145K in student loans, begins to get the same advice from her girlfriend Riri (Myha'la, HBO's 'Industry'), until Riri gets into the game too.  Gamestop employee Marcus Barcia (Anthony Ramos) uses his burgeoning financial gains to taunt his nagging boss Brad (Dane DeHaan).  But when the Gamestop surge actually takes out Melvin Capital, Wall Street pulls some shady moves, Robinhood trading app’s CEOs Vlad Tenev (Sebastian Stan) and Baiju Bhatt (Rushi Kota) turning off their sell option, Reddit shutting down /wallstreetbets (and Plotkin’s company is bailed out with a $3 billion injection from his rich friends).

Gillespie utilizes lots of title cards (everyone’s net worth is announced along with their character) and such devices as split screens, some mimicking pop-ups.  The film’s climax features a nice juxtaposition between the Gills and Plotkins, Caroline asking ‘How much did we make today’ as Yaara Plotkin (Olivia Thirlby) demands the same for losses (4 and 5 million gained each day by the Gills verses a billion lost for the Plotkins).  Both sides of the equation and their Robinhood middlemen will be subpoenaed by Congress for manipulating the market, Keith giving an eloquent speech on how the system is stacked against the common man.  The fact that no charges are brought would appear to solidify that case, but Riri’s having called out Keith’s rallying cry as a pyramid scheme also smacks of truth.  “Dumb Money” is entertaining on a surface level, but it leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth.

Sony opens "Dumb Money" in select theaters on 9/15/23.  It will expand on 9/22 and open wide on 9/29/23.