PLOT The story of the GameStop stock frenzy that roiled Wall Street.
CAST Paul Dano, Shailene Woodley, Seth Rogen
RATED R (strong language)
WHERE Area theaters
BOTTOM LINE A fun and fast-paced comedy about a populist financial uprising.
As the slogan for an uprising, “I like the stock” might seem a little underwhelming. But in “Dumb Money,” Craig Gillespie’s lively take on the GameStop feeding frenzy of 2021, that innocuous-sounding phrase becomes a rallying cry worthy of “Braveheart.” For one brief and glorious moment, it fueled a grassroots revolution that brought Wall Street uncomfortably close to the fiscal guillotine.
Paul Dano plays Keith Gill, an insurance-company employee living with his wife, Caroline (Shailene Woodley), and their baby in suburban Brockton, Mass. At night, mild-mannered Gill logs onto YouTube and transforms into Roaring Kitty, a financial superhero whose costume is a cringeworthy cat shirt and a red bandanna. As Kitty, he shares his stock picks with other keyboard warriors. His favorite of late: GameStop.
A video game retailer in an online world, GameStop seems like the next Blockbuster, a company destined for oblivion. Even Kitty’s dopey brother, Kevin (Pete Davidson), a DoorDash driver who wouldn’t know a short squeeze from a large shake, thinks he’s nuts. Nevertheless, Kitty bets the proverbial farm — about $53,000 — on shares. He likes the stock.
People take notice. A couple of debt-laden UT Austin students (Talia Ryder and Myha’la Herrold) follow his lead. A single mom working as a nurse in Pittsburgh, Jenny, does the same. (She’s played by America Ferrera, the new face of American motherhood following her rousing turn in “Barbie.”) Even a disgruntled GameStop clerk, Marcus (Anthony Ramos), places an order. After all, it’s easy: just a couple of clicks on that new app Robinhood. (Its tech-bro founders are played by Rushi Kota and Sebastian Stan in matching outfits and haircuts — shades of the Winklevoss twins, perhaps.)
What follows is a euphoric ride, as GameStop stock soars upward on a wave of goofy emojis, insider slang (“tendies,” anyone?) and misspelled memes like “stonks." Unfortunately, massive funds like Melvin Capital, founded by Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen), are betting on GameStop’s demise. The higher the price rises, the more they lose, but that doesn’t stop even more funds – one led by Mets owner Steve Cohen (a smirking Vincent D’Onofrio), another by Kenneth C. Griffin (Nick Offerman) – from pouring billions into Melvin Capital.
Based on a book by Ben Mezrich (“The Social Network”) and written by former Wall Street Journal reporters Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo, “Dumb Money” is a high-spirited comedy with an undercurrent of populist anger. Gillespie, a director who loves any mouse that roars (“I, Tonya,” “Cruella”), stands firmly behind Kitty and his workaday followers while relishing the billion-dollar beating that smart-money types like Plotkin took. It’s positively heartwarming to watch the invisible hand slap around the big guys for once.
And now, a splash of cold water. “Dumb Money” was produced by Teddy Schwartzman, whose father founded the trillion-dollar private equity group Blackstone, and by the aforementioned Winklevoss twins. In other words, this anti-establishment movie is brought to you by … the establishment. Ah, well — like the GameStop revolution itself, “Dumb Money” was fun while it lasted.