Dumb Money is an engrossing romp through the crazy GameStop-Reddit saga

Paul Dano shines in the latest entertainingly frenetic film from I, Tonya and Pam & Tommy director Craig Gillespie

Paul Dano in Dumb Money

The past few years have been eventful, to say the least, but one of the wildest stories to come out of that time was the GameStop-Reddit fiasco.

In January 2021, a short squeeze — when many investors short (bet against) a stock but the stock’s price shoots up instead — on the stock of GameStop occurred, primarily driven by users on the subreddit r/wallstreetbets. Given that GameStop hadn’t turned a profit in years, Wall Street was taken by storm as the video games retailer’s shares jumped 1000 percent, and the whole thing made headlines internationally.

Dumb Money, the latest movie from I, Tonya and Pam & Tommy director Craig Gillespie, aims to tell this story (based on Ben Mezrich’s The Antisocial Network), and the results are highly entertaining. As in his previous works, Gillespie brings a high level of energy and zaniness to Dumb Money, allowing everything to move along at a snappy pace. Quick and stylish edits interspersing all kinds of Reddit posts with sensational news segments and hedge fund managers’ flabbergasted reactions are a particular highlight.

But it also helps that the film centres itself around Keith Gill, the real financial analyst who helped inspire the r/wallstreetbets gambit under the username ‘DeepFuckingValue’ (DFV). Played with an endearing everyman awkwardness by Paul Dano (The Fablemans), Gill grounds the story and acts as an effective foil to the larger-than-life rich elite, including Melvin Capital chief investment officer Gabe Plotkin and fintech entrepreneur Vlad Tenev (Sebastian Stan and Vancouver’s own Seth Rogen, respectively, reuniting with Gillespie from Pam & Tommy).

Dumb Money Paul Dano and Shailene Woodley

Shailene Woodley and Paul Dano as Caroline and Keith Gill.

Through Gill and other working-class people (such as a nurse played by Barbie‘s America Ferrera or a GameStop worker portrayed by In the Heights‘ Anthony Ramos), writers and executive producers Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo thoughtfully explore the sorts of situations that would lead cash-strapped people to make such big investing gambles. With the pandemic as a backdrop, we also see how the charismatically goofy Gill, who prefaces his Reddit posts by giving a toast wearing a wacky cat t-shirt and sweatband, won over scores of socially isolated internet users.

What the film doesn’t really touch on, however, is why GameStop, specifically, became the focus of r/wallstreetbets. Gill makes a brief comment to his wife Caroline (Big Little Lies‘ Shailene Woodley) about just having this sort of gut feeling about the struggling retailer, but those looking for any further insight into that aspect of the story will need to look elsewhere.

Dumb Money America Ferrera

America Ferrera as Jennifer Campbell, a nurse, in Dumb Money.

To its credit, though, Dumb Money is otherwise approachable enough that you need neither knowledge of GameStop nor investing to fully enjoy it. With respect to the latter point, the film also thankfully takes some time to explain some Wall Street-related terminology but does so through straightforward blurbs of text on the screen rather than The Big Short-style cameo addresses to the audience.

By streamlining those elements, you’re able to fully appreciate the righteous underdog story being told here. Like any sort of dramatization, you won’t get a completely accurate story here, but it’s undeniably a fun ride.

Dumb Money opens exclusively in Canadian theatres on September 15th in limited release before expanding to more theatres on the 22nd and 29th.

Image credit: Sony Pictures