Director Craig Gillespie strikes an appealing balance of comedy, information, and heart in his working-class solidarity tale Dumb Money. He also makes perhaps the best reflection on the Covid-19 pandemic to date. The film takes us all the way back to 2020, when GameStop became the center of Wall Street thanks to a cast of individual investors who followed one cat-loving live-streamer. The story is likely familiar to you, being so recent, but Dumb Money finds a way to justify its existence by focusing not just on the details of the event but the heart behind it. The film plays like a more sincere version of The Big Short.
The film opens by introducing all the major players while the song "WAP" plays. Our heroes who are essential workers, college students, and lower-middle-class workers are contrasted with hedge fund owners in their mansions. It lets you know right away that this film is on the side of the little guy. The big little guy is Keith Gill (Paul Dano) who offers financial advice on Reddit and YouTube under the moniker Roaring Kitty. Keith is painted as a knowledgeable, sincere person whose brilliance comes from the way in which he influences and inspires.
Dano brings a sweet, nerdy anxiety and dorky enjoyment of success to the role. His performance roots the film, making it a working-class hero portrait. Shailene Woodley is equally as good as his supportive wife Caroline. Her role is underwritten but she brings a lot to her brief scenes with Dano. Pete Davidson is given a bit too much screen time instead, as Keith's slacker brother Kevin. Davidson seems to have one pitch to play here and it feels out of tune with Dano's more soulful performance.
The side characters also shine bright in Dumb Money. America Ferrera is moving in her portrait of a nurse drowning in debt who becomes one of Roaring Kitty's followers. Anthony Ramos is fun as a tuned-in GameStop employee. Myha'la Herrold and Talia Ryder are hilarious as two college students who get in on the wave.
Dumb Money suffers from a slow pace at times but the film is often uplifting when it could be very cynical. It is a refreshing point-of-view, even allowing Melvin Capital founder Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen) a few human moments. Sebastian Stan and Rushi Kota as the Robinhood co-founders are the only cartoonish villains painted here.
Dumb Money may drag a bit but it hits the ending out of the park. The film is truly powerful in the ways in which it shows how intelligence and sincerity can unravel lecherous practices.