Dumb Money stars Paul Dano, Seth Rogan, Nick Offerman, Shailene Woodley, Pete Davidson, Anthony Ramos, and America Ferrera, and it is directed by Craig Gillespie. Centering on Dano as Keith Gill, Dumb Money tells the story of the Gamestop stock run that happened in early 2021/late 2020. The script attempts to take on that entire story, telling it from multiple perspectives, including the “apes,” who are the working-class investors organizing on Reddit, and the hedge fund managers, who were shorting the stock.
Dumb Money was an exciting film because the Gamestop story is fascinating and combines so much of our cultural zeitgeist: it’s a story about income inequality, Wall Street abuses, online conspiracy theories and magical thinking, and the opaque world of the stock market. However, Gillespie and the rest of the creative team settled on the least interesting and most obvious perspective.
In his review of Dumb Money, Dan Murrell, a critic whom I respect a lot, contends that Dumb Money does not have a thesis, but I respectfully disagree. I think the thesis is that this stock run is a populist movement, the one time when the “real investors” were able to beat the hedge funds at their own game. The problem with that story is that it’s factually wrong, as proven by the recent YouTube documentary on the subject by Folding Ideas’ Dan Olson “This Is Financial Advice.”
That Dumb Money is fiction is fine; movies get history wrong all the time. The problem is that this movie even doesn’t support its own thesis. When some of the people who are ostensibly meant to be heroes end the film in poorer positions or continue to believe that a brick-and-mortar video game retail store is going to turn out to be a fundamentally solid investment, it is difficult to take them seriously as our working-class heroic geniuses. And yet in order to prove its point, the film needs us to believe that by the time the credits roll.
In 2013, Ashton Kutcher starred in Jobs, the first attempt at a Steve Jobs biopic. The movie was bad. So when Steve Jobs (2015) released with Danny Boyle behind the camera and Michael Fassbender in the title role, it was as though the JV team had a shot and missed, so now it was time to call in the professionals. Dumb Money is the JV version of the Gamestop story; here’s hoping that when the pros get a chance, the results do the story justice.