Surrounded on all fronts by major cinematic releases, from Barbie and Oppenheimer to Killers of the Flower Moon and Napoleon, Dumb Money was never going to be a major blockbuster. Thomas Martin reviews.
The BBC labelled this film ‘breezy entertainment,’ and it is true to say that captures the essence of this 144-minute release. Covering the GameStop stock squeeze of 2021, this comedic dramatization provides a light explanation of a multi-billion-dollar financial market frenzy.
Laying out the players at hand, we see Keith Gill (Paul Dano), also known as Roaring Kitty on Twitter and YouTube, livestream his trading on the Reddit channel ‘WallStreetBets’ – an enormous meme-ridden community for other retail traders. On the other side, there are the hedge funds, their managers, and the trading platform. The funds are managed by Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen) of Melvin Capital Management, Steve Cohen (Vincent D’Onofrio) of S.A.C. Capital Advisors, Kenneth C. Griffin (Nick Offerman) of Citadel LLC, and the trading platform itself, RobinHood, run predominantly by Vlad Tenev (Sebastian Stan). A few other individuals are thrown into the mix, ranging from a college student to a nurse, but these are largely unmemorable and serve to show the mixed successes found in the stock market.
GameStop (GME) was considered a failing company, but Keith Gill saw an increasingly large viewership on his platform follow his advice to buy GME stock to push back and squeeze Wall Street, as he considered the company undervalued. The practice of short shelling has unlimited risk of losses, as there is no limit to how high stock prices can rise, going to show the hedge funds’ confidence. Hedge funds short stocks, meaning the lower the stock price goes, the more profit they make.
The film represents this with multiple scenes of characters saying, ‘oh shit,’ and splattering the screen with memes from the Reddit page
By 27th January 2021, Gill’s GME portfolio had risen to $48 million, and the WallStreetBets website broke pageview records with 73 million views in 24 hours. GME closing share price on January 11th was $19.94, but by January 27th it reached the whopping peak of $347.51, a 134.8% increase on a single day. On January 26th, Elon Musk tweeted with the link to WallStreetBets’ Reddit platform, likely causing a major contribution to the pageview record being broken. All-in-all, the hedge funds that shorted GameStop lost $10 billion and Melvin Capital closed down, with Gabe Plotkin stating he had to ‘step away from managing external capital’. The film represents the chaotic nature of events with multiple scenes of characters saying, ‘oh shit,’ and splattering the screen with memes from the Reddit page, which was jarring after it became repetitive.
Unfortunately, no individual character ‘leaves their mark’ on the screen
With all these figures, it can be easy to lose sight of the crux of what Craig Gillespie (Director) is aiming for; breezy entertainment (or a light biopic). Whenever a new character is introduced, their net worth is displayed on-screen, highlighting the vast differences in wealth present. Unfortunately, no individual character ‘leaves their mark’ on the screen as, for example, Cillian Murphy did as Robert J. Oppenheimer in Oppenheimer, or Matt Damon did as Sonny Vaccaro in Air. Overall, however, the gradual trend of the film is fairly predictable, and the barrage of social media extracts and clips of financial journalists explaining their excitement at the situation is, likely, overdone. Breezy entertainment is exactly what Gillespie aims for here. The potential to make the Wall Street players villains or lecture the audience on the evils of capitalism is there, but – due to the specificness of the GameStop event and the limited impact it has had since – the comedic route makes more sense.
Interestingly, however, a couple of major factors were omitted from the release. Michael Burry’s Scion Asset Management (largely touted with predicting the 2008 Financial Crash) purchased a 3.3% stake in GameStop and wrote to the board of directors urging them to buy back shares due to overlooked value in their company before the price surge. In addition, in January 2021, Ryan Cohen (former CEO of Chewy), bought 9% of GameStop, which also may have contributed to the rapid price rally.
Dumb Money manages to turn an interesting blip event into an enjoyable watch, but does not delve deep enough into the plot, themes or characters to create any real emotion
Ultimately, Keith Gill’s whereabouts is unknown and he has retired from public life. Despite the film’s end credits stating Wall Street was forever changed, that is incredibly unlikely. Regardless of the manipulative tactics that landed all these players in a Congressional hearing, it is unlikely we’ll see another GameStop situation, despite claims that ‘AMC Entertainment’ and ‘Bed, Bath, and Beyond’ stocks, which are also heavily shorted, were being targeted by the social media mob. Consequently, it is only fitting that the complicated, risky and depressing set of events were covered in such a light-hearted manner. Dumb Money manages to turn an interesting blip event into an enjoyable watch, but does not delve deep enough into the plot, themes or characters to create any real emotion. Biopics are on the rise in Hollywood, but Dumb Money won’t be considered a template for the long-term.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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