Reviewed by: Mike Klamecki
|Biography Comedy Drama Adaptation
|1 hr. 44 min.
|Year of Release:
September 15, 2023
DVD: December 12, 2023
About money in the Bible
How can I spend my money more wisely? Answer
American video game retailer GameStop stock short squeeze in year 2021
Based on the true story of a group of rag-tag investors from the Reddit page called r/WallStreetBets, who banded together to put the squeeze on at least two hedge funds that had bet that GameStop shares would fall
The content of this film is based on the book by Ben Mezrich: The Antisocial Network: The GameStop Short Squeeze and the Ragtag Group of Amateur Traders That Brought Wall Street to Its Knees
Short selling is a finance practice in which an investor, known as the short-seller, borrows shares and immediately sells them, hoping to buy them back later (“covering”) at a lower price, return the borrowed shares (plus interest) to the lender and profit off the difference. The practice carries an unlimited risk of losses, because there is no inherent limit to how high a stock’s price can rise.
Short sellers are exposed to a risk of short squeezing, which occurs when the shorted stock jumps in value due, for instance, to a sudden piece of favorable news. Short sellers are then forced to buy back the stock they had initially sold, in an effort to keep their losses from mounting. Purchasing the stock to cover their short positions raises the price of the shorted stock, thus triggering more short sellers to cover their positions by buying the stock. This can result in a cascade of stock purchases and an even bigger jump of the share price.
According to Puck, the real Ken Griffin—portrayed in the film by Nick Offerman—“is locked in a nasty behind-the-scenes legal fight with Sony Pictures over his depiction in “Dumb Money” … Griffin has hired at least two separate law firms and sent multiple threatening letters… and he’s consulting with crisis P.R. people to push back aggressively on his depiction by actor Nick Offerman and the filmmaking team. Griffin claims the movie ‘crosses the line into the knowingly false and defamatory portrayal of Ken and Citadel Securities.’
Paul Dano … Keith Gill
Pete Davidson … Kevin Gill
Vincent D'Onofrio … Steve Cohen
America Ferrera … Jenny
Myha'la Herrold … Riri (Myha’la)
Nick Offerman … Ken Griffin
Anthony Ramos … Marcus Barcia
Seth Rogen … Gabe Plotkin
Talia Ryder … Harmony Williams
Sebastian Stan … Vlad Tenev
Shailene Woodley … Caroline Gill
Clancy Brown … Steve Gill
Dane DeHaan … Brad
Olivia Thirlby … Yaara Plotkin
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Black Bear Pictures
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|Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures
“When Wall Street rigged the game he changed it”
I have a long-time friend who, many years ago, started a modest business that exploded into a large empire within the wheel/tire market and consequently made him a millionaire. He went to my church and I even worked for him for over a decade. During that time I saw close up what money can (and can't) do to someone. He has a wise saying… “Mo” money, mo” problems” which sums up what happened to him. He found that being rich brings more unspoken expectations in other’s minds about you and your ability to help, to give, to gift, and to live in a certain way. Since he has become wealthy his relationship with some family members (including his mother) has disintegrated, he loses sleep with all the challenges of keeping all of his investments going, has regular anxiety, and is suspicious of anyone who wants to build a relationship. He wasn’t always like this. Mo” money, mo” problems indeed.
This seems to be an apt description of “Dumb Money,” a film based on real events directed by Craig Gillespie (“I, Tonya,” “Cruella”) starring a large cast of talented actors that show what happens when money becomes the be-all end-all for not only the rich and powerful but for the everyday middle-class who team up to make a movement. It also highlights how money connects many different parties and entities together so when one side does good the other side loses billions, and conversely how the financial game is rigged for the powerful and elite.
There are many characters located in many places/situations to keep up with. This true-ish story is set during the pandemic and recounts the rise and fall of the Gamestop short-squeeze situation. The main character is Keith Gill, aka Roaring Kitty (played by a very sincere Paul Dano), a relatively unknown personality on Reddit who gives advice on stocks and trading from his basement. He and his wife (Shailene Woodley) live a very modest life close to his parents and pothead loser brother Kevin (Pete Davidson). Keith convinces his followers to buy Gamestop stock (simply because he likes the stock) after he sinks all of his savings into the first initial investment.
Other young Reddit users see the uptick effect of the Gamestop stock and decide to join in and create a short squeeze (massive immediate investments for one low-performing stock that leads to a market surge). We follow a few of these unprofessional investors like a nurse named Jenny (America Ferrera who plays the emotional heart of the movie), a GameStop clerk named Marcus (Anthony Ramos), and a pair of lesbian college kids named Harmony (Talia Ryder) and Riri (Myha'la Herrold). Each person has challenges and each person has a hope that making a fortune in the stock market will solve all their problems. Pretty soon a movement is created to buy Gamestop stock and hold onto it (not to sell) so everyone can become rich together. This is all orchestrated by Roaring Kitty’s meme heavy urgings to hold and wait.
On the other-side of the trading floor there are some rich and powerful opponents of this scheme: Seth Rogen as hedge-fund manager Gabe Plotkin who shorts the Gamestop stock to make a fortune on it’s failings but it backfires thanks to Gill’s antics. Plotkin losses billions in a short time and that brings his ex-boss Vincent D'Onofrio as the eccentric Steve Cohen, and Nick Offerman as insanely-rich Ken Griffin as the calvary to bail him out. So it’s the battle a few rich moneymen vs. The multitude of small time investors. During this fight we see people’s net worth vasalcate and tensions growing as those who really need the money fight the urge to cash out and pay their bills. We also see the machinations behind the scenes of how much power a few rich guys have to rig the system. There is also a good side story about Vlad Tenev (Sebastian Stan) who created the trading app Robinhood that most of the young people use to buy Gamestop stock and how Vlad betrays the concept of his app’s namesake. In the end we see the ones who made their riches, the ones who lost their riches, and the ones who lost what they didn’t even own.
The movie is shot pretty straightforward and tends to look drab, gray, and low lit (especially Gill’s house and nurse Jenny’s hospital) whereas the rich guys are seen via amazing sun-drenched shots and interiors. Craig Gillespe’s creative shots in “I, Tonya” are left behind for more of a simplistic style of storytelling which gives the movie a more documentary feel. The actors are all great (America Ferrera following up her “Barbie” role with another emotionally charged performance) and even Pete Davidson gives a few laughs. Paul Dano, always a favorite of mine with his crazy choices of acting, makes you want to root for him in every scene with his authenticity and hang-dog expressions.
That said, this movie is pervasive in it’s language. I call upon the “Goodfellas Rule” where if it gets past 50 F-bombs you can stop counting the curse words. You know if you are going to have the tolerance or not based on that standard. There are several GDs as well. There is kissing and petting done by the starring lesbian couple as well as a shot of male nudity (backside) as two men run naked. There is lots of alcohol and drug usage plus riotous partying.
“Dumb Money” shows how being hyper-focused on money can harm your life by making you a different person, as well as add a whole new set of stressors. I have always seen Proverbs 30:8-9 as being a key in my attitude towards money…
”Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”
“Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” —1 Timothy 6:10
The solution to this is to be content (the state of being mentally or emotionally satisfied with things as they are) with what God has given you for the time you have it, for Paul says,
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…” —Philippians 4:12
Living with our hands open for God to give or take from us as He sees best is much better than living with the closed fist of squeezing tight around the stuff in our lives as it seeps out our fingers. And good news! If we live with contentment we can avoid the reality my rich friend has had for his life, “Mo’ money, mo’ problems” as we go from a lifestyle of “dumb money” to “smart living.”
Learn about DISCERNMENT—wisdom in making personal entertainment decisions
Every time you buy a movie ticket or buy or rent a video you are in effect casting a vote telling Hollywood, “I’ll pay for that. That’s what I want.” Read our article
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.