(Written by Allison Brown)
Following the onslaught of thrilling corporate biopics over the past year, ranging from Blackberry to Tetris, I was highly anticipating Sony’s take with Dumb Money. Since r/wallstreetbets became public knowledge for analysis, nearly every major festival seems to have selected a documentary detailing the rise and fall of retail traders, GameStop stock, and the Robinhood app. This market has become so prevalent that my own nephew tried his hand with Robinhood as soon as he reached the age of eighteen. At South by Southwest last year, I first developed my own familiarity of the phenomenon after screening Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets, and I hoped Dumb Money would provide a narrative balance for a more mainstream audience.
Having now watched, I am left a bit lost on who it is trying to target. With an overabundance of real memes, TikToks, reddit posts, and news footage that I have spotted prior on the internet or in earlier documentaries, those with any solid background on the topic will find it repetitive and unremarkable. Personally, the only new information I don’t remember learning prior is that Robinhood’s removal of the buy option was the direct cause of the market crash, and that the players were all deposed to a congressional hearing. Financial slang terminology, like diamond hands, bears or shorting, is barely if at all explained. Sometimes financial dialogue, especially between wealthier folks like Ken Griffin (Nick Offerman), Steve Cohen (Vincent D’Onofrio), and Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen), is difficult to fully grasp. 2015’s The Big Short does a much better job at helping an average clueless viewer understand more complex topics. This leaves those without any prior knowledge struggling to grasp much of the details, and only understanding a general overview of the story.
Despite a strong and notable cast, it feels like we are following far too many characters. A closer focus on “Roaring Kitty,” or Keith Gill (Paul Dano), and his family, those at Melvin Capital, and perhaps one or two regular joes would have been more than sufficient. Instead, it becomes hard to keep track of backstories, and allows time for very limited character growth outside of Gill. Nevertheless, Dano’s casting is impeccable; he completely embodies the real “Roaring Kitty,” both in mannerisms and appearance.
Seeing characters relive the beginning of the still ongoing but subdued pandemic, such as when essential worker Jenny (America Ferrera) talks to a stranger about not seeing another person’s face in ages, is not something anyone still wants to be watching in cinema three years in. It may be necessary to include to provide a proper time capsule, but perhaps that means Dumb Money has been produced too early or too late. Maybe in a decade, there might be more subject matter to flesh out a feature without the virus bleeding in, or if it does, it won’t be as fresh a wound for the audience.
Dumb Money had potential to be one of the best films of the year, but instead it emerges as one of the weakest of the many business biopics. Given the cream of the crop were predominantly still reduced to streaming platforms, I am surprised that this ended up as a solely theatrical release rather than a hybrid effort like Amazon’s Air. Remove all the generic internet clips, and it will most likely struggle to fill the runtime. While performances are solid, and there are a handful of laugh out loud moments, the execution falls flat.
Take a bet on Dumb Money when it premieres at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival on Friday, September 8th, and comes to limited theaters on September 15th before going wide on September 29th.