“Yo, what up everybody. Roaring Kitty here. I’m going to pick a stock and talk about why I think it’s interesting. And that stock is GameStop.”Keith Gill
As a Reddit user, I followed the GameStop short squeeze in early 2021 with great interest as several Wall Street hedge funds were blindsided by loosely coordinated action from retail investors (to whom the finance industry derisively referred as “dumb money”), leading to the Robinhood trading app turning on its own users. Where The Big Short and The Wolf of Wall Street are “inside out” explanations of financial manipulation that affected the public, Dumb Money focuses on the outsiders breaking in, a grassroots movement that began on the r/WallStreetBets subreddit. The film is candid about the online community’s propensity for crude and offensive memes, reproduced here with the same weight as archival news footage. Presenting events as a “David and Goliath” story (characters are each introduced with their net worth) is an oversimplification but it captures the underlying emotional arc from hope to outrage. Dumb Money often feels like a zeitgeist movie that captures a specific point in time: the COVID pandemic highlighting wealth disparity, the rapid growth of fintech startups, spiralling student debt, and the new influence of TikTok. Craig Gillespie again collaborates with I, Tonya cinematographer Nicolas Karakatsanis, though here they opt for a more naturalistic style whilst building tension using David Fincher’s technique of cutting between a multitude of camera angles. The ensemble cast is impressive, Paul Dano standing out in his portrayal of Keith Gill, capturing his cadence but finding emotional resonance as well. As Gill has become a very private individual, there is a great deal of speculative material in this dramatisation, though it leans more toward aspects like the supportiveness of his wife rather than sensationalism. Dumb Money is entertaining without really having a message, Gillespie describing the film as “part of the conversation” in its portrayal of an inherently rigged financial system — there is a perhaps unfounded sense of catharsis as Dumb Money shows many regular folk winning despite the lack of structural change; in reality many retail investors also suffered huge losses, represented here only through America Ferrera’s sympathetic portrayal of a nurse burned out by the pandemic. It is a fantasy, then, but a relevant one.