Dumb Money (2023)

All It takes is one person to spark a revolution. From an idea to an action being carried out, the world can change for either the good or the bad from the influence of one person over others. The events depicted in Dumb Money are revolutionary indeed and are based on true events, making director Craig Gillespie’s film historically influential. Those events happened 3 short years ago in the baron wasteland that was the year 2020. When the world shut down, masks were mandatory wherever you went, and people would consider themselves geniuses for wearing trash bags over their entire bodies at their local grocery stores. Forget about finding toilet paper or milk and bread during a global pandemic. One week’s time felt like a year passed with no end in sight.

The most advanced cities full of tourists, commuters and locals became ghosts towns. Only those deemed essential to the government still went into their jobs and saved countless lives by their heroism and sacrifice. To think, 3 years later when the world is finally back to normalcy now that we actually endured all of that, that we had to stand 6 feet behind one another on checkout lines and there was limited capacities in businesses is still unfathomable and this is the type of world where Dumb Money takes place in. Future generations will think we’re all lying or it’s a conspiracy when the year 2020 is brought up.

It happened alright and so did the revolution of the GameStop Short Squeeze. Now, I cannot even begin to explain or understand the inner workings of Wall Street, Hedge Funds and investing but having prior knowledge will not devalue the entertainment dramatization writers Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo spin out. In short, the definition of a short squeeze is this: “a situation in which the price of a stock rises to such an extent that investors who have sold short, purchase the stock in order to limit their loses, causing the price to rise further”.

GameStop was one of the companies who benefitted from the short squeeze, AMC theaters was another when the world shut down and bankruptcy was on the immediate horizon for these companies. For the sake of Dumb Money directed by Craig Gillespie, the story follows Keith Gill (Paul Dano) aka Roaring Kitty on YouTube who invests in GameStop stock in the belief that Hedge Funds are undervaluing it. Every day in his modest Brockton, Massachusetts home he shares with his wife Caroline (Shailene Woodley), Roaring Kitty would be an active member in the subreddit page r/WallStreetBets and go live on YouTube and talk about why he likes a particular stock – going so far as to share his balance sheets with the viewers.

If you’ve ever owned a gaming console, GameStop was the place to be, and it still is thanks to the Keith’s convictions to bring value to the struggling company against the hedge funds who would see it fail and only get wealthier in the process. When the story starts, GameStop’s stock price was only a few dollars and by the climax of the film, the volatile stock soared past $347 dollars. This put Hedge Fund owners like Ken Griffin (Nick Offerman), Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen) and Steve Cohen (Vincent D’Onofrio) in the position to lose billions of dollars.

Power to the people!

It’s not just Keith speaking into the red blinking light of his webcam or showing his progress on the subreddit, several other people and their stories get featured throughout Dumb Money. People we can all relate to in one way or the other. They are Jennifer Campbell (America Ferrera), a nurse, single mother to two boys and essential worker struggling to make ends meet, Marcus (Anthony Ramos), a GameStop store associate fed up with his dead end job, Riri (Myha’la Herold) and Harmony (Talia Ryder), two college students with 6 figures in debt. Although these are the characters and their financial situations we’re introduced to, Blum and Angelo’s script can easily be interchangeable with whomever is going through a tough time.

The message is simple – anyone can invest and make money with a little bit of luck and talent but it’s the story of the human spirit, of the underdog fighting back against the 1% to prove that no one person should be undervalued or have whats in their bank account determine their value.

For 104 minutes, Dumb Money dismantles the hyper wealthy and those who benefit off of companies that fail. These people don’t care about the lives that get ruined or situations that become harder to bear, only how their pockets can be lined with more green slips of paper. One perfect example comes early on in an exchange between Ken and Gabe in which both one up each other in how they stayed open for business during the pandemic – neither caring about the lives they jeopardize or the inconvenience it causes.

Cut between the collages of various social media videos, meme’s, and newscasts tracking the volatile stock’s price and whether the collective are holding out is a grounded story of family. It’s learned that Keith, his brother Kevin (Pete Davidson) and their parents suffered a devastating loss that stays with the brothers, keeping them close. Not just Keith’s family but Marcus’s family struggles and Jennifer’s are highlighted to further prove the point that these people can be anyone. Blum and Angelo find a harmony in their script between families and the audaciousness set to the soundtrack of modern hip hop.

Whether we want to revisit the time in which Dumb Money takes place in or not, the story fires on all cylinders, giving the advantage to those who need it most in a fast paced blend of The Social Network, The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short. 2023 has offered a variety of biopics of everyday normal people hitting it big and making a remarkable impact on society and pop culture and Craig Gillespie’s film continues the streak. Led by the charmingly quiet confidence of Paul Dano, Dumb Money’s ensemble is stacked from top to bottom paired with a soundtrack that echoes this current generation and the idea of dismantling those in power who don’t deserve it. GME to the mooooooooon!

Screenplay By: Lauren Schuker Blum & Rebecca Angelo

Directed By: Craig Gillespie

Music By: Will Bates

Cinematography: Nikolas Karakatsanis

Starring: Paul Dano, Pete Davidson, Vincent D’Onofrio, America Ferrera, Nick Offerman, Anthony Ramos, Sebastian Stan, Shailene Woodley, Seth Rogen

Edited By: Kirk Baxter

Release Date: September 15, 2023

Running Time: 1 Hour 44 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%

Based On: The Antisocial Network by Ben Mezrich

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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