Home » ‘Dumb Money’ Review – Don’t Discount This Dramedy | TIFF 2023

‘Dumb Money’ Review – Don’t Discount This Dramedy | TIFF 2023

by Beatrine Shahzad
Paul Dano stars as Keith Gill going on a live stream talking about GameStop stock while sitting on his gaming chair with his desktop set up and microphone in the movie DUMB MONEY.

If you’re someone who regularly frequents the internet, you’ve heard of the GameStop Short Squeeze. In January 2021, stock in Gamestop, a brick-and-mortar video game retailer, skyrocketed, resulting in huge losses for hedge funds who had essentially “bet against the stock.” It was a community-driven effort, propelled on social media primarily by the subreddit r/wallstreetbets. Now, only two years later, Dumb Money from director Craig Gillespie (Cruella) follows the series of events that led to the short squeeze and its ramifications through the eyes of Keith Gill, the Redditor who initially called attention to the undervaluing of the stock, and those who believed in his analysis. 

Based on the 2021 book The Antisocial Network by Ben Mezrich, the most immediate and striking feature of Dumb Money is its ensemble cast. Paul Dano plays Keith Gill with Shailene Woodley playing his wife, Caroline Gill, and Pete Davidson playing his brother, Kevin. Other supporting cast members on the side of the working class include America Ferrera, Talia Ryder, Myha’la Herrold, and Anthony Ramos. Across the line, the adversarial 1% is led by a performance from Seth Rogen playing hedge fund founder Gabe Plotkin, and supported by similar richy rich types Vincent D’Onofrio, Nick Offerman, and Sebastian Stan.

Despite its extensive size, each member of the Dumb Money ensemble gets a considerable amount of screen time and presence, enough for the audience to empathize with their plight. Furthermore, the casting is pitch-perfect and each performance is finely tailored to the material, giving the movie a heft of realism. America Ferrera’s role as a hard-working single mother and nurse, in particular, is especially empathetic. Actors Pete Davidson and Paul Dano comedically playing off one another is not only an unexpected highlight but their interactions introduce a surprising emotional core to Gillespie’s film.

The script modulates between the different subplots with ace precision. Each plot thread is told distinctly in an easy-to-follow manner, and they breeze by at a smooth pace. Dumb Money isn’t an edge-of-your-seat, fast-paced thrill ride, though, it is perfectly temperate and very easily watchable. The comedy aids in the propulsion of the story and the screenplay is multilingual in that it both captures how people actually talk and accurately encapsulates internet slang. Films incorporating social media run the risk of feeling unnatural, or worse, dated. However, writers Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo have their fingers on the pulse of pop culture. More importantly, they know when something’s meant to feel “cringe” and dated because 2021 is forever ago when it comes to the internet and, to be fair, we were all going a little crazy locked up in our houses.

Nick Offerman stars as Kenneth C. Griffin and Seth Rogan stars as Gabe Plotkin talking together in their Tennis clothes by a fancy pool in the movie DUMB MONEY.
Nick Offerman & Seth Rogen in ‘Dumb Money’
Courtesy of Sony Pictures

For how bro-centric both Wall Street stock-talk and the Reddit community are, Blum and Angelo craft a script that’s universally accessible. Concepts are simplified into cause and reaction, anything that needs to be explained is fed to the audience in bite-sized chunks. It’s an accessible story for women, not only depicting multiple female characters who are involved in stock trading but portraying them in a strong and supportive light, showing them as multifaceted people with their own goals and desires. 

Craig Gillespie is no stranger to melding together a comedic tone with an emotional rawness, such as he did with I, Tonya or Lars and the Real Girl. Dumb Money continues in the proud tradition. The film may explain what led to the rise in cost, but the important theme to explore is why so many people who needed the money chose to hold their GameStop stock rather than sell when the price was high. What ultimately elevates Dumb Money from being just another comedy about screwing over billionaires is its nuanced exploration of solidarity and how people pushed against the systems designed to subdue the masses, even when that came at a personal cost.

Importantly, it’s a film that takes place during COVID-19 and the pandemic has a direct effect on the events taking place. There are not many movies about the pandemic in such a way, and the world is wary of them. The pandemic was a tragedy, and any project attempting to transform a tragedy into nothing more than a storytelling device can quickly become gauche. Dumb Money does not fall into this trap. It recognizes the COVID-19 pandemic as not only an event resulting in a death toll, but an event reinforcing oppression against the working class while the upper class remains virtually unaffected. The pandemic is represented as something very true to the average American experience, complete with nurses double masking and service workers accidentally leaving their noses uncovered.

Dumb Money is an incredibly solid crowd-pleaser. Even though it never dips too deep into the well of thematics and emotions it draws from, it still stands as an extremely enjoyable time in the theater while having something worthwhile to say. The script is expertly structured and brilliantly executed through a wonderful cast. There’s never been a movie about stocks quite like this one, because there’s never been a story quite like this one. It’s a perfect storm of a global pandemic, the hoarding of wealth due to late-stage capitalism, and the volatility and unpredictability of social media and the stories it disseminates and popularizes, and Dumb Money captures it all into one ride.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Dumb Money premiered at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival. The film releases in theaters September 15!

Follow writer Beatrine Shahzad on Twitter: @beyabean

1 comment

Mike September 10, 2023 | 2:47 pm - 2: 47 pm

We never even had early onset capitalism much less late stage. Instead, we have corporatism/socialism. People get suckered into stock swindles because they assume the SEC has sanitized the stock market. Investors trusted Madoff because they thought the FEC would prevent such a huge ponzi scheme.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.