“Dumb Money,” based on the book “The Antisocial Network” by Ben Mezrich, is a torn-from-yesterday’s-headlines, foul-mouthed comedy about a range of people participating in the “rocket to the moon” of the stock bubble of GameStop, the mall videogame store; there’s tenderness in the characters’ relationships to go along with the astounding accounting of “fuck” and “motherfucker” and the naming of names like Citadel’s Ken Griffin.
Politically aware comedy can readily slip-slide into polemic or scattershot like, say, Adam McKay’s “Vice,” and what is bracing to one viewer, perhaps one who is more aware of the world, will alienate another who turns a blind eye to systems and eddying effects. And what cheers one reviewer will piss off another—vivid political sentiment and unpunished sexuality brings out the scold and self-portraitist in critics.
“Dumb Money” is admittedly busy, but a well-paced, foul-mouthed near-period piece about the pilgrim’s progress of a virtual web of young, prankish retail traders taking on the institution of the market through inflating the stock of GameStop, set in the early days of the lockdown. (The young retail traders never meet: their dealings with the stock are confined to their parallel stories, like streams of data, boxes on Zoom, Americans in isolation.)
There’s as much stuff getting explained as in “The Social Network” or in a Michael Mann picture, about market forces but also memes and websites and TikTok instead of the stress factors in Neil McCauley’s “book about metals” in “Heat.” It’s a lot for a running time of 104 minutes with a big, keen cast. If it ran three hours, like “Wolf Of Wall Street,” the sum of profane language of Craig Gillespie’s film would likely outrace Scorsese’s. Still, the juggling of stories is sharply edited, and the ensemble is bravura, both in character and in range: Paul Dano, Pete Davidson, Vincent D’Onofrio, America Ferrera, Myha’la, Nick Offerman, Anthony Ramos, Talia Ryder, Sebastian Stan, Kate Burton, Clancy Brown, Shailene Woodley and Seth Rogen, with news-sourced cameos from financiers and politicos including Elon Musk and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The ideals of the suddenly rich, as well as working-class disillusionment of the perhaps soon-to-be-broke-and-busted-again characters invoke the French Revolution and Occupy Wall Street, with characters by their side raising their eyebrows: is that really what these movements were about?
The combination of hope, familial tenderness and opposition to the billionaire class is bracing, and perhaps would only have come from Columbia, an American studio owned by a Japanese conglomerate, Sony. “You vampires suck all the money out of it” is always placed next to an iteration of “Fuck them, fuck them all!” And making Citadel investments’ Ken Griffin (Nick Offerman) a villain about whom every character mutters, “Prick”? Would Hulu or Netflix or Apple do that?
There are vivid brushstrokes on the elemental canvas in Rebecca Angelo and Lauren Schuker Blum’s screenplay, eluding the mortal danger of images of dudes-and-dudettes-at-keyboards, such as a montage of the characters across the nation in their vehicles: traders in their Teslas; a mom-nurse on a city bus; Pete Davidson DoorDashing on a banana-seat bike. The rich get bailouts? We get “one $600 check.” Masking is seen as a class element, too; and the manipulation of the stock by the wealthy is described as “class warfare pure and simple.” If this is lip service, it’s pretty fucking mouthy.
Smart or just clever? “Dumb Money” harks back to movies that could be in their moment to be in our moment, and truer words are seldom spoken than “This dirty fucking motherfucker, fuck, this fucking motherfucker!”
“Dirty Money” is in theaters.