Dumb Money does a good job of skewering the knowledge and experience of the Wall Street Elite. It’s a take back the power comedy with all kinds of take backs- the power of the struggling middle class mass to outsmart the rich betting on companies, essentially America, to fail. It shows why managers should not sell short American optimism.
The Game Stop news event of a few years back was a David versus Goliath tale of small investors in Game Stop who faced off against huge and predatory hedge fund managers betting on profiting from the video game retailer’s demise by selling short.
On one side are the Wall Street villains: Gabe Plotkin of Melvin Capital Management (Seth Rogen); Steve Cohen of Point72 Ventures, and the owner of the New York Mets (Vincent D’Onofrio); and Ken Griffin of Citadel LL (Nick Offerman). They’re all based on real people and many of their odd quirks and stranger than life details are drawn from the nonfiction source book The Antisocial Network by Ben Mezrich. Steve Cohen did have a free ranging potbelly house pig. In the movie the porker functions as a metaphor for his swinish behavior.
Pitted against these, er, swine is an army of common men and women, represented here by a struggling single mother and nurse (America Ferrera), a college kid deep in student-loan debt (Talia Ryder) and her girlfriend (Myha’la Herrold), and an impoverished salesclerk at a GameStop (Anthony Ramos). They all become small investors, egged on by Keith Gill (Paul Dano), a recreational stock-pick guru on YouTube who went by the online moniker Roaring Kitty, and who by day worked as a financial analyst. Keith and his wife (Shailene Woodley) are salt-of-the-earth types; they live in a rented house with a new baby, and $53,000 in savings in the bank. (The film introduces every character with on-screen details of their net worth.)
Keith is the character who represents the American spirit- betting on something he sees as undervalued and reflects his soul to the point that he’s willing to give up his riches to keep it. He is the animating force that infuses the others in Dumb Money to believe in him and stick with his vision come hell or high water. He goes against the conventional wisdom that Game Stop (America) is a bad investment and can only be profited from by selling it short. If America is literally a pyramid scheme, as one character cracks, it’s a grand one worth the gamble.
There are too many ordinary Americans being portrayed to make them all stick out beyond their symbolic shadows. Dumb Money is content to show a lot of the eye glint, a little of the struggle and echoes of their souls. Only America Fererra, not unsurprisingly, sticks out as having any rounded humanity. I saw her as the full promise represented to everyone by the Statue of Liberty. I also like the true detail that she, and all the other common little guys, use the Robinhood app.
Dumb Money doesn’t need bravura. It has enough charm and soul to make it a good view. The money may be dumb to the out of touch, but just how smart these little guys are, is plain to everyone to see.
Dumb Money gets a 3.5 out of 5 or a B+.
- Lauren Schuker Blum
- Rebecca Angelo
by Ben Mezrich
- Paul Dano
- Pete Davidson
- Vincent D’Onofrio
- America Ferrera
- Nick Offerman
- Anthony Ramos
- Sebastian Stan
- Shailene Woodley
- Seth Rogen
- September 8, 2023(TIFF)
- September 15, 2023(United States)