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Dumb Money? A prophet of profit: TIFF Review

Courtesy of TIFF
Courtesy of TIFF

You won’t find a better ensemble in any movie this year stronger than Dumb Money, a very funny David vs. Goliath (or at least, a Keith vs. Wall Street) tale that looks at the modern stock market with the desperation its subject deserves.

The inspiration for this rapidly produced film, sharply directed by Craig Gillespie (of Cruella fame and the Oscar-winning I, Tonya, another history comedy), is the wacky history from the 2020 financial rollercoaster that was GameStop’s volatile stock price.

At first it was simply a hedge fund short where Wall Street bet the video game store would go bust, and they profit off its bankruptcy. Instead, a team of keen, nerdy and desperate strangers all worked together to turn the tables and bring the profits back to the people.

Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo’s script is serviceable if a bit oversimplified in technical terms; it focuses more on to characters than the complex stakes of trading and the deals being made.

But the good news is this same script gives lots of time to highlight the intrigue of the cast’s real world inspirations and the ludicrously talented ensemble that plays each of them. Paul Dano leads in a genius, naturalistic performance as unemployed investor Keith Gill, but he’s surrounded by great actors at every turn.

Nearly a dozen Hollywood greats are giving equally strong performances that all balance well-timed comedy with more catharsis and gravity than the dialogue provides. Shailene Woodley, Pete Davidson, Anthony Ramos, Talia Ryder and Seth Rogen are all great - but the biggest scene-stealer is America Ferrera, already following up her terrific scene-stealing from this summer’s Barbie!

It would be easy to draw comparisons to more cathartic and technical films like 2014’s The Big Short or the classic Wall Street - and they miss out on a refreshing ingredient in their epilogues: hope. Here the end is somewhat discouraging, but this is also a story where it ended with some positive change.

Dumb Money is really about risk: how powerful is the temptation of risking big to win bigger? And what fuels such passion that ordinary people could use surprisingly simple math and teamwork to take down funds worth billions of dollars?

Maybe it’s about sending a message that the many poor versus the few in power isn’t as lopsided a fight as billionaire businesspeople wish it was. Or maybe it really just is about making some sweet, sweet cash. I’d like to think the answer is some warped combination of the two.

In any case, Dumb Money is a zippy, humorous and whip-smart story that’s been effectively (and quickly) adapted for the screen to inspire with real examples of how hard work can tangibly produce "the American Dream."

Dumb Money

8 out of 10

14A, 1hr 44mins. History Comedy.

Directed by Craig Gillespie.

Starring Paul Dano, Shailene Woodley, Pete Davidson, America Ferrera, Anthony Ramos, Talia Ryder, Seth Rogen, Sebastian Stan, Nick Offerman and Vincent D’Onofrio.

Opens in theatres everywhere (including Oakville) on Friday, Sept. 29. Also plays TIFF again on Sept. 10, with tickets available here.