“Dumb Money” Captures Angst, Anguish of Stock Trader Bro Culture

A new movie from a generally sly observer in the director’s chair gives a little bear and a little bull but not enough of either to make a very interesting trip to the zoo. An interlocking ensemble of characters represents the haves and have nots of the modern American economy in Craig Gillespie’s often effective true-life dramedy Dumb Money (B). Paul Dano is a natural as iconoclast Keith Gill, a regular guy with an outrageous YouTube persona urging retail investors to buy and hold ascendant underdog GameStop stocks, setting in motion an epic showdown with entitled hedge fund managers and even seemingly well-meaning technologists who collectively don’t want to see their predictable cash cow of a system upended. Along the way the movie presents effective subplots featuring the likes of America Ferrera and Anthony Ramos as common folks scraping by with the most to gain, but the script doesn’t plumb the depths of their stories enough. Seth Rogen and Nick Offerman are among those playing the aloof elite, although their parts are rarely imbued with the bombast or bluster required to characterize them as full-fledged antagonists. Gillespie vividly captures the zeitgeist of a drifting American culture at the height of the pandemic and certainly generates pockets of pathos amidst all the mercenary mania. The film is most brilliant in the ways it is steeped in the specificity and nomenclature of a grassroots investing class changing the way the Wall Street game is played. It’s at times fascinating and occasionally riveting while rarely amounting to the contemporary classic it could have been.

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