The pandemic was a deeply profound time that we all experienced differently. We were all physically separate, but technology allowed us to be connected in some ways closer than ever.
It quickly became clear that while many things came to a screeching halt, there were some aspects of our society that could continue humming right along. One of those was the stock market.
A fascinating bit of craziness happened in early 2021 at the height of the pandemic, when a group of online investors rallied together in support of a single stock – the video game store GameStop – and in the process, shook the foundations that Wall Street’s wealth is built on.
The movie “Dumb Money” does a fine job of documenting this unlikely David vs. Goliath tale while also being the first film of note to capture the disorienting upheaval of simply living through the pandemic.
The story focuses on Keith Gill (Paul Dano), an unassuming, low-level financial analyst who thinks GameStop is an undervalued company, so he invests his young family’s modest life savings in GameStop stock. On the advice of his supportive but moderately nervous wife Caroline (Shailene Woodley), Keith begins to make online videos about his financial wheelings and dealings as almost a kind of therapy.
Under the name Roaring Kitty, Keith’s goofy videos and solid logic strike a nerve and people around the country start buying up GameStop stock which sends the price through the roof. We meet some of these hard-luck investors, like an overworked and underpaid nurse (America Ferrera), a couple of broke college students (Myha’la Herrold and Talia Ryder) and an actual GameStop employee (Anthony Ramos).
But the law of the jungle (and Wall Street) states that as our underdogs start winning, someone else has to start losing. That would be the obscenely wealthy hedge fund managers (played by the likes of Seth Rogen, Vincent D’Onofrio and Nick Offerman) who have invested heavily in the prospect that GameStop will fail as a company.
As our loveable losers start making millions, the overstuffed villains start losing billions and the whole affair becomes a game of financial chicken as the longer the online investors hold onto their stock, the higher it will go and the greater the losses the hedge funds will endure.
“Dumb Money” leans hard into this class warfare and gleefully revels in the unexpected cracks in a system that is rigged in favor of those at the very top.
Director Craig Gillespie does a good job of tying all of these threads together as we bounce around the country and watch as everyone reacts to all of the insanity from the isolation of their own COVID bubble.
If anything, “Dumb Money” feels a little rushed as it glosses over some details and fails to come to a satisfying conclusion, all while trying to put a bow on an era of our lives I don’t think we’ve even really fully processed yet.
But what it does do well is champion the little guy and, from the music to the memes to the masking, “Dumb Money” amplifies all those little details that made being alive in 2020 and 2021 so cuckoo, bonkers crazy.
“Dumb Money” is rated R for pervasive language, sexual material and drug use.