The stock market makes no sense. Granted, this is coming from the perspective of somebody who knows next to nothing about Wall Street. If Dumb Money is any indication, though, even those who make billions off the stock market annually have no idea what they’re doing. Social media has added a wild card, but it’s one more inclined to benefit the other 99%. Some will describe Dumb Money as a companion piece to The Big Short. Craig Gillespie’s film is just as much The Anti Big Short, however. Where one will leave you furious at Wall Street, the other will have you smirking throughout. Yet, both share a common theme: greed.
The perpetually underrated Paul Dano plays Keith Gill, aka Roaring Kitty, aka DeepFuckingValue. Equal parts financial analyst and influencer, Gill spends his nights live streaming with a spreadsheet in the background and a red Rambo headband around his noggin. As hedge fund manager Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen) bets on GameStop to fail, Gill goes all in with a $53,000 investment. If the debatably obsolete game retailer goes under, Plotkin can tear down the neighboring mansion to build a tennis court. If GameStop prevails, Gill can feed his wife (Shailene Woodley) and new baby.
Although everyone thinks Gill is mad, he has Reddit, YouTube, and Twitter (never calling it X) on his side. Gill amasses a legion of followers, including a nurse in debt (America Ferrera), a GameStop clerk (Anthony Ramos), and a couple of college girlfriends (Talia Ryder, Myha’la Herrold). Although these characters are largely fictionalized, they authentically represent the middle and lower-class investors looking to give Wall Street a run for their so-called “dumb money.” The film doesn’t delve into any of the big names who got in on the short squeeze like Chewy co-founder Ryan Cohen, who’s now GameStop’s executive chairman. This was primarily a victory for small investors, however.
Dumb Money still generates sympathy for Plotkin, who’s depicted as a privileged yet loving family man. We’re less empathetic toward Ken Griffin (Nick Offerman), who’s compared to a Disney Channel villain, and Steve Cohen (Vincent D’Onofrio), whose pet hog eats better than most of the characters. Although we root for the underdogs, our heroes aren’t immune to the notion that greed is good. On more than one occasion, the small investors are in a prime position to sell. Some can pay their bills, others can be financially well off for the foreseeable future, and at least one can retire as a multi-millionaire. Yet, they continue to hold. This is partly about sticking it to Wall Street, but it’s mostly about wanting more. After all, a million dollars isn’t cool. You know what is? A billion dollars!
Whether a person is born in debt or with a silver spoon in their mouth, Lauren Schuker and Blum Rebecca Angelo’s witty script reveals how humanity is never satisfied with enough. For some, this leads to a tragic downfall. Overall, though, Dumb Money empowers the little guy. The fascinating true story at its core may be an anomaly, but it could also mark a turning point in the stock market game. People at the top will always find ways to stomp on commoners. As long as the internet remains accessible, though, people will keep finding ways to outfox their supreme overlords through numbers and memes.