REVIEW: ‘Dumb Money’ is a ‘sort of smart’ dramatization of the GameStop stock scandal
Paul Dano’s standout performance overcomes the film’s limitations
“Dumb Money,” the new docu-drama from “I, Tonya” director Craig Gillespie, showcases the time-honored trope of an underdog gatecrashing a walled-off society. This time, Gillespie exposes the warped reality of supposed “high finance.”
The film gets a great deal of mileage from the irony of a company named “Robin Hood” — built to democratize stock trades — that will go to any lengths to keep its rich and powerful investors happy. Even if it means sabotaging its actual clients — regular people trying to scrape by in a rough-and-tumble gig economy.
You might know all or at least some of the epic story behind the GameStop trading run, but if you don’t, it won’t affect your enjoyment of the film, because “Dumb Money” isn’t here to rebuild the wheel. The film bites off pieces of “The Social Network,” “The Big Short,” “Moneyball” and even Gillespie’s sophomore follow up to “I, Tonya” — “Cruella.” It then throws them in a propulsive narrative, ably abetted by snappy one-liners, fast edits and lots of familiar faces in a seamless ensemble.
That ensemble cast (featuring Pete Davidson, Nick Offerman, Seth Rogen, America Ferrara, Dane DeHahn and Vincent D’Onofrio), really is a major reason to see the film, as they bring shading and depth that the narrative lacks.
Paul Dano, coming off a break-out year in 2022 (“The Batman,” “The Fablemans”), where he did not receive an Oscar nomination, probably won’t get one for “Dumb Money,” but he does prove once again that he’s rapidly becoming Hollywood’s “go-to” actor for weirdly charismatic, angry and brilliant loners looking to take a run at the corrupt system holding him down. Gillespie hammers this point home with the film’s inciting incident; Dano’s character, Keith Gill, meets an old friend, also in finance, who became rich while Gill struggled.
It's clear Gill’s isolation from the bigwigs has nothing to do with talent, but how he plays the game. He’s all heart, no killer instinct, still attached to childish whims and ruled by nostalgia. As expected, he will weaponize those downfalls to strike back at Wall Street and save his beloved childhood GameStop from the jaws of monopolistic capital.
In some ways, “Dumb Money” suffers from Keith Gill’s flaws — it too is all heart and no killer instinct. Perhaps it’s because so little time elapsed between the actual “GameStop stock rookies” versus “big finance” narrative portrayed in the film and its real-life events. Or, maybe it’s because it truly is a situation with risible villains and easy heroes, but the film lacks the satirical bite, the moral ambiguity and the ambitious structure of its forerunners in the genre.
“Dumb Money” isn’t dumb per se, but it lacks a deeper questioning of the system itself, and instead goes for easy laughs and applause lines, missing an opportunity to zoom in on a legitimate scandal and satisfies itself with doing the expected, albeit well.
“Dumb Money” will be wide released in theaters on Sept. 29.
This article was edited by Bailey Hobbs, Patricia McGee and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis.