Film Review: Dumb Money is a cautionary tale as much as it is one of conquest

Watching Dumb Money it’s not hard to be reminded of The Social Network.  Aside from the fact that Craig Gillespie‘s comedic drama is produced by The Winklevoss Twins – the brothers who had a major role in the creation of Facebook, at least according to them – Dumb Money is similarly recounting one of the 20th century’s most important technological events, and the script from Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo has a manner in which it maintains an entertaining mentality as it details something undeniably dramatic and complicated.

And though David Fincher’s drama is arguably a better film, Gillespie by no means has created an imitator or slouch effort on his own accord, detailing the dramatization of the GameStop stock saga with vigour and intrigue; even if you know the story, you’ll likely find Dumb Money an insightful riot.

An inspiring underdog story about beating billionaires at their own game, Dumb Money lays its focus on the immensely likeable Keith Gill (Paul Dano), a financial analyst who retreats every night to his expansive basement to post videos explaining his thoughts on certain stocks on a Wall Street subreddit under the username Roaring Kitty.  Keith has a little legion of a following, namely debt-riddled average Janes and Joes who, in the peak of a pandemic-riddled America in 2020, follow his actions intently as he posts about the plummeting stock of GameStop, a video game retailer, and why it’s a good investment.

Keith’s goofy videos that accompany his narration hardly appear threatening, and they initially add a nice, not-too-worrying boost to GameStop’s numbers, but Keith and his followers, which includes debt-crippled nurse Jennifer Campbell (America Ferrera), college girlfriends Riri (Myha’la Herrold) and Harmony (Talia Ryder), and GameStop employee Marcos (Anthony Ramos), hold steady on their faith, and when it’s released that a slew of hedge fund managers at Melvin Capital Management, namely Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen), have been shorting the stock for years, the fairy-tale temperament of a David vs. Goliath emerges as the 1% – which also includes Mets owner Steve Cohen (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Ken Griffin (Nick Offerman) – start to see their wealth slip away in staggering figures; “How much did we lose today?” asks Plotkin’s wife (Olivia Thirlby), to which he replies, head in hands in exhausted fashion, “A billion.”

Whilst it’s understandable that the script would want to pepper itself with some background information on Keith, it alludes to past successes and tragedies – his high-school running career and the death of his sister – in a manner that feels as if there’s a larger story to be told, but, naturally, aims its focus on the Wall Street shakedown he unintentionally triggered.  Thankfully, Dano’s performance is effortlessly endearing, and the way in which his Keith interacts with wife Caroline (Shailene Woodley) and his family (Kate Burton and Clancy Brown as his loving parents, and Pete Davidson as his slacker brother) means he’s painted with enough colours to enhance his traits.

A cautionary tale as much as it is one of conquest, it’s difficult to think Dumb Money won’t serve as something of a blue print for wannabe stock enthusiasts who want to become a little more savvy in their financial moves.  And whilst this true tale very much indicates that it is entirely possible to bet against the odds and emerge victorious, Gillespie’s comedic drama is still smart enough to showcase those odds and that the desperation that fuelled so many of Keith’s followers’ actions isn’t the smartest springboard to leap from.


Dumb Money is now screening in Australian theatres.

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.