Movie review: ‘Dumb Money’
Small-time retail investors take on some of the titans of Wall Street in the wry fact-based blend of comedy and drama “Dumb Money” (Sony). Although the David vs. Goliath aspect of director Craig Gillespie’s film is appealing, the relentless vulgarity of its dialogue gives his retrospective a hard edge and renders it acceptable for few.
That’s a shame because this richly ironic fictionalization of recent history — adapted from Ben Mezrich’s 2021 book “The Antisocial Network” by screenwriters Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo — might otherwise have proved entertaining for a wide swath of grown-ups. As it is, there’s a sour undertone to proceedings that dampens viewer enthusiasm.
The audience is certainly meant to be rooting all the way for the principal figure in an ensemble of characters, low-level financial analyst Keith Gill (Paul Dano). From the depths of his basement, cat-fancier Keith posts YouTube videos giving his thoughts about the stock market under the screen name Roaring Kitty.
In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Keith announces his bullish outlook on store chain GameStop, the shares of which he believes to be undervalued. This flies in the face of the bearish thinking that prevails among such fat-cat hedge fund leaders as Steve Cohen (Vincent D’Onofrio), Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen) and Ken Griffin (Nick Offerman).
Believing GameStop to be doomed, these CEOs — from whose disdainful term for the capital controlled by ordinary stock buyers the movie takes its title — are holding huge short positions from which they stand to profit if the company goes bust. But they’ve failed to reckon on the investment frenzy Keith manages to whip up among the very folks they deride.
Although Keith’s populist strategy is initially scorned by his rudderless brother Kevin (Pete Davidson), once it begins to work, it swiftly enriches not only Keith and his supportive wife Caroline (Shailene Woodley) but a variety of working stiffs. Most prominent among the latter is beleaguered nurse Jennifer Campbell, played by America Ferrera.
Besides the moniker Roaring Kitty, Keith goes by another, unprintable online nickname that typifies the freewheeling vocabulary adopted throughout the script. The problem is reinforced, moreover, by the lyrics rapped in the songs of the hip-hop-dominated soundtrack which showcase a consistently debased view of human sexuality.
Along with Jennifer and GameStop clerk Marcus (Anthony Ramos), two others profiting from Keith’s advice are college students Riri (Myha’la Herrold) and Harmony (Talia Ryder) who together make up a same-sex couple. This fairly incidental aspect of the plot is presented matter-of-factly but — as might be predicted — with obvious implicit approval.
Perhaps all the tawdry talk is meant to suggest a gritty working-class milieu. But the tennis-playing tycoons who stand to lose if Keith and his followers succeed are as much given to engaging in it as their economic opponents. In the end, it amounts to a flood of obscenity under which many positive elements of the picture are in jeopardy of being drowned.
The film contains brief rear nudity in a nonsexual context, drug use, a lesbian relationship, a same-sex kiss, about a half-dozen instances each of profanity and milder swearing and pervasive rough and crude language. The OSV News classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
— John Mulderig,, OSV News