Dumb Money does an excellent job of making a complicated subject easy to follow. Most of us remember the news stories about GameStop stock shooting up a few years ago. Fewer people, myself included, grasped the intricacies of that situation. Working from an award-worthy script by Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo, director Craig Gillespie takes viewers through the whole thing so you can understand it. Best of all, the details aren’t oversimplified.
Paul Dano plays Keith Gill, a YouTuber who has become a firm believer that the troubled GameStop’s stock is undervalued and posts videos to that effect. His message spreads through social media, causing other people around the country – like nurse Jenny (America Ferrera) and GameStop store clerk Marcus (Anthony Ramos) – to invest. This greatly displeases hedge fund manager Ken Griffin (Nick Offerman) and Melvin Capital Management CEO Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen). They’re the guys betting on the video game store to fail.
The movie looks at the situation from a fascinating variety of angles. Despite merciless mocking from his brother (Pete Davidson), Keith remains determined to hold on to his stock. He genuinely feels it’s a good bet. Jenny and Marcus, along with college students Riri (Myha’la) and Harmony (Talia Ryder), are debt-ridden, so they see Keith’s advice as a way to dig themselves out of their respective holes, sticking it to the Wall Street vultures in the process. Vlad Tenev (Sebastian Stan) and Baiju Bhatt (Rushi Kota), the owners of trading app Robinhood, try to exploit both sides for their own profit. Cutting back and forth between the various plot threads conveys the intense drama the GameStop battle posed. Billions of dollars were literally at stake. Fortunes were gained or lost in seconds.
TikTok, Twitter, and Reddit were prime factors in adding fuel to the underdogs’ fire. Gillespie smartly tells parts of the tale through the use of actual online posts and memes. These montages allow you to feel the excitement average investors felt in watching the stocks rise. You also get a grasp on the David-versus-Goliath factor that motivated them. The potential to make the top 1% lose their shirts became addictive, leading more and more people to hop on board.
Dumb Money shrewdly incorporates the political and social forces happening at the time, especially the Covid-19 pandemic. Keith gets into trading as a hobby during quarantine. Had there not been a pandemic, it’s entirely possible none of this would have occurred. The supporting characters are struggling anyway, but find their economic crises worsened by closing businesses and other ramifications. Buying GameStop stock becomes a lifeline during a difficult time.
Learning the nitty-gritty of this unprecedented stock market event is thrilling, especially since the movie is briskly paced. Beyond that, it’s often very funny, thanks to a witty screenplay. Each performance in the ensemble cast is absolutely spot-on, too. No single film could ever pack in every notable detail about a true story. Dumb Money still manages to include a lot in 105 fast-paced, thoroughly enjoyable minutes.
out of four
Dumb Money is rated R for pervasive language, sexual material, and drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes.