Early in the mask-abundant, pandemic-freakout of 2021, you might have picked up on the skyrocketing stock price of GameStop, a faltering American video-game retailer.
Maybe you even cheered the Reddit users spurring on what became a semi-effective Occupy Wall Street populace movement, which managed to blindside Ivy-League-educated Wall Street pros: The little people (“Dumb Money” as Wall Street insiders derisively call them) managed to bilk beaucoup bucks off billionaires in the process.
What HappenedSo there’s this guy (Paul Dano) wearing a red headband, a sweatshirt with cats on it, he’s sipping beer, and he’s streaming stock market advice under the YouTube username of “Roaring Kitty” on YouTube, in his basement.
He’s a low-level securities broker with another username on Reddit, which is “Deep(the-Epoch-Times-cannot-say-the-following-word)Value.” His real name is Keith Patrick Gill, and he’s the one who initiated the now-legendary GameStop short-squeeze in January 2021.
Keith lives with his supportive wife Caroline (Shailene Woodley) and their baby in Brockton, Massachusetts. He’s close to his family, including his major slacker/pothead brother Kevin (Pete Davidson), a DoorDash delivery-boy who eats the customers fries whenever he feels like it, and hilariously thinks that particular job qualifies him as being a “first responder.” In classic little-brother fashion, he ribs big bro Keith constantly for being a finance-whiz/nerd who thinks he’s “Jimmy Buffet.”
Gill shared his personal financials, online, with his masses of loyal retail-trading followers—many of whom had been devastated by the 2008 market crash. His down-to-earth, passionate approach to investment banking, and the full transparency of his balance sheets begat him a very dedicated fan base.
He advises his fans to invest in GamesStop. "I like the stock," he says. He then discloses that he’d bet $53,000 (his entire life savings) with his wife’s blessing. And then, like unto the blue-face-painted William Wallace in “Braveheart,” he urged them to “Hold… hoooldd… HOOOOLD!!!” the line—because this was their chance to teach Wall Street a lesson. His fans piled on, and the whole thing went viral.
We meet some incredibly wealthy and incredibly smug Wall Street power players. Hedge fund manager Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen) appears onscreen along with a graphic telling us he’s worth $400 million.
Next up is Steven Cohen (Vincent D’Onofrio) worth $12 billion (he’s the guy who bought the New York Mets). And there’s Citadel CEO Ken Griffin (Nick Offerman): net worth—$16 billion. Sebastian Stan plays the co-CEO of investment app Robinhood, which becomes the biggest villain of the entire film.
Early in the narrative, these financial behemoths are initially bemused with the microbial money musings of Gill. However, their disdainful dismissal of him quickly segues to heart-palpitating panic as they observe millions, followed by actual billions—that they’ve bet against GameStop in the hope of the company’s failure—swirl down the toilet. As Gill holds the line and the stock refuses to come tumbling down, the financial powers that be will do anything to quash this online rebellion.
Here are the little people representing the dumb money: Jenny, a single mom and nurse (America Ferrera); two college students Riri (Myha’la Herrold) and Harmony (Talia Ryder) who are buried under student loan debt; and disgruntled GameStop store employee Marcus (Anthony Ramos). As Gill’s net worth springboards into the tens of millions, the little people are tasked with making life decisions about life-changing money. Some sell and make out like bandits; some wait too long.
Overall“Dumb Money” is based on Ben Mezrich’s “The Anti-Social Network” and is highly entertaining and often very funny. Also inspiring, via a top-notch ensemble cast and the evergreen and perennially beloved vehicle of the David versus Goliath narrative.
The R-rating comes via much cursing and a soundtrack filled with hip-hop and rap lyrics that may singe your ears, not to mention a sampling of the party games kids now play at college—a reminder that we are currently, culturally, in a time equivalent to the short reign of Elagabalus, Rome's hardest-partying emperor.
To the filmmaker’s credit, “Dumb Money” is entertaining first, and a financial lesson second. Director Craig Gillespie takes what could easily lead to financial befuddlement, and simplifies it into something easily accessible to all audiences. It’s a feel-good story about the smarter-than-you-thought, little pack of misfits who gamed a rigged system, via GameStop, and scored a touchdown for the little guy.