Dumb Money: The GameStop Movie We Didn’t Know We Needed

Paul Dano stars in Dumb Money. Photo by Claire Folger. © 2023 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The TIFF-premiering Dumb Money does for Wall Street Bets and GameStop what The Big Short did for the subprime mortgage crisis.

You can thank Taylor Swift and her concert film for Sony changing their release plans. The initial plans were a wide release on October 6. But because of Taylor and the Swifties, the wide opening is now taking place on September 29. It’s for the best because the awards contender demands our attention even after last year’s Netflix documentary, Eat the Rich. It’s been a while since continually hearing about GameStop in the news but let me say the film and documentary make a nice one-two punch. I guess you can argue it’s a one-two-three punch when you add in the basis for the film, The Antisocial Network by Ben Mezrich. Dumb Money is more entertaining, no doubt, but there are times where both overlap on footage such as during the congressional testimony.

Retail traders were the ones creating the rules when it came to the GameStop stock because Keith Gill (Paul Dano) just really liked the stock. He bought some $50,000 worth of stock when it was selling for just under $4 a share. If you paid attention to his videos and bought in when he did, you stood to make a huge amount of money. Well, at least until Wall Street Bets was shut down by Reddit and the Robinhood app took away the option to buy. What were people to do–just sell it off? If you’re wondering, the stock is currently selling for under $20. Some investors would eventually turn to AMC in hopes of driving up the price but the film doesn’t really touch on the theater franchise. The two companies are similar when it comes to their stock price being super cheap back in 2020.

While Keith Gill and other retail traders see their lives blowing up, other people are looking at the news and shell-shocked by what’s happening. A number of hedge fund traders were shorting GameStop, including Melvin Capital’s Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen). According to the film, Plotkin moved down to Florida during the pandemic. He was among those who shorted the stock and is eventually subpoenaed by Congress. Ken Griffin (Nick Offerman) and Plotkin’s former S.A.C. Capital Advisors boss, Steve Cohen (Vincent D’Onofrio), rescue his ass. The Donald Trump-supporting Cohen was running Point72 Asset Management at the time and had only recently become the majority owner of the New York Mets. Money issues didn’t stop Plotkin because he’s now one of the majority owners of the Charlotte Hornets.

Seth Rogen stars in Dumb Money.
Seth Rogen stars in Dumb Money. Photo by Lacey Terrell. © 2023 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Plotkin’s Melvin Capital may have lost billions and shut down but Rogen doesn’t play him in a sympathetic way. When one looks at what was happening to other people, it’s hard to find much sympathy for a millionaire or billionaire losing millions or a billion a day. Rogen still finds a way to humanize Plotkin as a character and that’s why he’s such a good actor. Meanwhile, Nick Offerman is playing straight man in many ways. While audiences might be used to Offerman making them laugh, there’s none of that here. Griffin is very much one of the film’s villains and it shows.

Screenwriters Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo are able to capture the story and weave it together in a way that keeps it captivating. Like with The Big Short, there are a number of players that require our attention. Gill is the big one but there’s the focus on the hedge fund traders and then the regular retail traders, too. Everything culminates with the congressional testimonies before we get to see the actual people in real life. While Mezrich’s book is the primary basis, Blum and Angelo were journalists before becoming screenwriters. Their own research led to characters such as Harmony (Talia Ryder) and Riri (Myha’la Herrold). Putting both together makes for a stronger–if hysterical at times–film.

Behind the camera, Craig Gillespie–who was invested in the GameStop drama prior to signing on–does a great job at bringing the script to the big screen. No performance goes over the top. There’s the right level of comedy, drama, and emotion. Gillespie and editor Kirk Baxter know when to rein in a Pete Davidson performance. What surprises me is that the studio film took 31 days! They were also filming during awards season. But with the way they shot the film, it’s not like a Star Wars or Marvel movie. Nobody was required to be on set for days at a time–instead, they on set for a few days at a time. You wouldn’t know any of this from watching the film. Meanwhile, where The Big Short used celebrities, they draw on TikTok to explain what’s happening. Archival footage also includes The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Both 2020-21 were an interesting time for many people because of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. Situations were different across the board–that just goes without saying. One thing was for sure: the rich got richer while the poor got poorer. Enter Keith Gill, Wall Street Bets, and the rest is history. Gill–aka Roaring Kitty–just really liked GameStop. He didn’t have any kind of an agenda. It was just the fact that he managed to obtain a following and the people listened to him. Eventually, what was happening to GameStop got noticed by Congress and the White House. Did Wall Street get what was coming to them? Maybe. There are allegations about Ken Griffin lying under oath about speaking with Vlad Tenev (Sebastian Stan) at Robinhood. I also have to laugh about the Robinhood IPO backfiring.

I’ve been very outspoken when it comes to Jewish representation in films. Not to say anything about Gabe Plotkin or Steven Cohen’s stock market moves but it’s at least it’s nice to see a Jewish actor portraying Gabe Plotkin. From what I can tell, Olivia Thirlby, who co-stars as Gabe’s wife, Yaara, is of Jewish descent. I haven’t been able to find any interviews but at least their casting is a win for proper representation. The film could have found a Jewish actor to star as Cohen. It cannot be that hard, can it? We’re living in an area where authentic representation is everything. At some point or another, authentic representation means casting Jewish roles with Jewish actors.

Dumb Money is the GameStop film that we didn’t know we needed and one of the best pictures of the year.

DIRECTOR: Craig Gillespie
SCREENWRITERS: Lauren Schuker Blum & Rebecca Angelo
CAST: Paul Dano, Pete Davidson, Vincent D’Onofrio, America Ferrera, Myha’la Herrold, Nick Offerman, Anthony Ramos, Talia Ryder, Sebastian Stan, Shailene Woodley, and Seth Rogen, Kate Burton, Clancy Brown, Rushi Kota, Larry Owens, Dane Dehaan, Olivia Thirlby

Sony Pictures will release Dumb Money in theaters beginning on September 15, 2023 with an expansion to follow. Grade: 4.5/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.