Updated: Oct 28
Craig Gillespie's adaptation of the GameStop craze is hilariously comprehensive
The GameStop stock craze of 2021 was a frenzy that was ripe for satire and comedy, yet few thought there would be a cinematic biopsy so soon after the actual event. Yet Craig Gillespie has brought us a look back at how internet virality nearly broke Wall Street,
Dumb Money (2023) is the true story of how Keith Gill (Paul Dano), a YouTuber filimg from his basement in Boston, encouraged a legion of fans to buy the videogame retailer GameStop’s stock. The craze and cult-like following that Keith generated made the stock price rocket in a matter of weeks, making retail investors who followed him incredibly rich, while hedge funds that had shorted and bet against the stock lost billions. The narrative revolves around Keith, yet we bounce around to other individual stories, from retail investors such as nurse Jenny (America Ferrera), GameStop employee Marcus (Anthony Ramos), and college students Harmony (Talia Ryder) and Riri (Myha’la Herrold), to hedge fund managers Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen), Ken Griffin (Nick Offerman), and Steve Cohen (Vincent D’Onofrio) who panic and suspiciously push for a solution.
Gillespie brings his manic energy and restless editing vigor to Dumb Money, which serves the “meme-stock” story well. The collage of tik-tok videos and memes as the narrative story is unspooling pair well as Gillespie hammers home the absurdity and hilarity of the events. Gillespie’s impatience, however, costs Dumb Money some of the character gravitas, as we move too quickly from a series of events to another, without pausing to understand them.
The screenplay, adapted from Ben Mezrich’s book of the same name, doesn’t seek to oversimply or even “Hollywood-ize” the story either, showcasing the dangers and addiction of stock dealing and the costs that these events can have on ordinary folk (those who sold too late). Yet, Dumb Money condenses the infuriating rule changes that occurred in a simple enough way for viewers to understand how unfair the ending of this saga really was.
Inevitably, this film will be compared with The Big Short (2015), yet Dumb Money is not taking on such a challenging role as explaining subprime mortgages to the average viewer; as such, the film is given more runway with which to have fun. Gillespie drills down into the comedic elements of both the story and his cast, employing the John Oliver tactic of using humor to explain complex issues. The result is that Dumb Money works remarkably well as a standalone comedy, delivering a steady stream of laughs that films with simpler concepts would kill for.
Much of the success of the disparate storyline structure and comedic glue is the sprawling cast, which is filled with comedy veterans the likes of Offerman, Rogen, and Ferrera, but also includes welcome turns from Ramos, Pete Davidson, and Shailene Woodley the latter two who play Keith’s brother and wife respectively. Dano is the man who holds Dumb Money together, however, flitting between serious scenes that require a transmission of truth and fact to viewers and comedic bro-ish elements that pepper this character’s persona. Dano demonstrates why he is one of the finest performers working today, shifting easily from serial killer in The Batman (2022), to caring father in The Fabelmans (2022), to basement YouTuber in this film.
In the end, Dumb Money works incredibly well as a comedy, condensing the GameStop stock frenzy in a comprehensive fashion. The disparate storylines and restlessness of Gillespie’s editing and pace do rob the film of some of its emotional weight and impact, but it nevertheless delivers an informative and fun time at the theater.