“Dumb Money,” the latest project from esteemed director Craig Gillespie ( who also directed “I, Tonya,” and “Cruella”), is a historical account of the GameStop short squeeze that took the stock world by storm in January of 2021. Blending history with comedy, the film brazenly recalls the events and their impact on the many parties involved – from the Reddit solo-investors, to the billionaire hedge fund managers, to the news and social media.
Of this vast cast of characters, the largest chunk of the film’s runtime is dedicated to Keith Gill (Paul Dano) – also known as “Roaring Kitty” – the goofy yet charismatic Reddit streamer responsible for kickstarting the GameStop stock trend. It’s Gill’s story that drives the movie both narratively and emotionally, between his constant reckoning over whether to buy or sell his shares and his strong desire to provide for his family amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
But as much time as there is dedicated to Gill and his real-life problems, there is just as much, if not more, spent weeding through cringe humor and needless dramatization.
For a movie about a stock market anomaly, “Dumb Money” is almost too concerned with appealing to a younger generation. From the hip-hop needle drops to the countless TikTok references, it aims to catch Gen-Z’s notoriously short attention span and redirect to something actually useful: stocks. However, I’m not even sure the film succeeds in doing that, as its quick, info-dump delivery makes it more exhausting than hypnotic.
I wouldn’t say that the film is excessively expositional, but it does spend a large cut of its runtime trying to fill audiences in, whether it be through heavy dialogue or montage. It’s not subtle and to make matters worse, it features a lack of visual authenticity — something I’d consider a borderline necessity when it comes to dramatizing history.
Part of me thinks that “Dumb Money” should’ve been made into a documentary instead of a drama, especially when the depicted event will almost certainly be an afterthought by the end of the decade. But, the other part of me is at least grateful that it has some form of moral sentiment.
After all, this is an underdog story about how a group of low-income stock investors flipped the script on a bunch of wealthy hedge fund managers and, in turn, got rich. Or, at the very least, better off than before. “Dumb Money” is tailored to society’s everyday, working-class people. That is a strong disposition, regardless of its painfully conventional conjuring. But then again, convictive intent is nothing without steady execution, something that this movie lacks.
For example, “Dumb Money” preaches unity and acceptance. However, at the same time, it glorifies notoriously hateful communities like Reddit. Furthermore, the film focuses on so many different storylines that not one of them feels completely paid off in the end. The movie is under two hours after all, which is not nearly enough time to craft a fully flourished ensemble piece.
The film is at its best when telling individual stories of triumph and hardship, whether it be Gill’s rocky yet hopeful family drama or Jenny Campbell’s (America Ferrera) humble yet heroic efforts while serving on the frontline during the pandemic. These stories about the human condition make “Dumb Money” worth it. Unfortunately, that aspect of the film is undermined due to the aforementioned excess of anything but.
“Dumb Money” is too concerned with being too many different things and that’s ultimately why it doesn’t work. It wants to be a modest drama, a truthful history, a ridiculous comedy and an inspiring underdog story, but it only manages to be watered-down versions of all those things.
It’s a film that left me with nothing to chew on, nothing to marvel at and little to feel for. That is not what I want from a cinematic experience. 5/10.