Laughs aplenty  in “Dumb Money”

Published 11:53 am Tuesday, October 31, 2023

This week at Tryon Theatre, a biting and compelling comedy takes the silver screen with “Dumb Money,” a satirical narrativization of the real-life GameStop short-squeeze that took place in January of 2021. This film is an adaptation of a book on these same events, The Antisocial Network, written by author Ben Mezrich, whose former work The Accidental Billionaires was adapted into the acclaimed 2010 Sorkin film, “The Social Network.” Mezrich’s work has been adapted to the screen by the collaborative efforts of Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo, and directed by the talented Craig Gillespie. 

“Dumb Money,” as a depiction of historical events, is a largely fidelitous translation, taking very few liberties with the recent past. There are of course dramatized private conversations to build the emotional arcs of the film, but the plot and key events are predominantly a depiction of reality. This film’s debt to reality only heightens the comedy present throughout, as the insanity of the situation provides many an organic moment for humor, no matter how ironically or painfully said humor may derive.

This is a film of adult humor, of fast-paced dialogue with sharp edges and frequent, but funny, vulgarity throughout. However, said humor and story are not adult only for their potential shock value. The world informing the comedy is the world of finance, of both billion-dollar firms and poverty-line savings accounts. The film’s stakes have very real consequences for the everyday characters portrayed, and the film is well cast to convey both the film’s levity and weight. The film’s cast is a large ensemble, with the narrative being told through a sprawling but tightly woven web of characters. 

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At the center of this web is the film’s lead, Paul Dano, playing a lower middle-class financial analyst Keith Gill, who enjoys much of his free time as an altar ego online, engaging in presentations and discussions on amateur stock trading. 

During the summer of 2020, Gill noticed a dip in the stock of GameStop, a chain of retail video game stores. As he seized on this opportunity to purchase newly affordable stock he uncovered that several investment firms were short-selling this stock, predicting its collapse. As Gill began to talk about this online, the story picked up incredible momentum, soon spiraling into a fiasco that saw fortunes gained and lost, lives forever changed, and at least one federal investigation. All of this insanity has been neatly packaged and hilariously interpreted in “Dumb Money.” We hope to see you soon!