GameStop lives, and is probably open late at a location near you. The fate of the often troubled videogame retailer is at the core of Dumb Money, a fast-paced and funny movie about the 2021 amateur stock trading craze on which the retail chain’s fortunes rose, fell, and then rose again. And if the filmmakers neglect to cap their tale with news of the store’s unexpected survival (the chain just posted a quarterly profit), well, the GameStop saga was never really about the store, was it?
Keith Gill (Paul Dano), a 32-year-old Massachusetts financial broker must have been a loyal customer because in the fall of 2019, he began singing the praises of GameStop in online videos recorded in his basement. To the astonishment of the few people paying attention to his initial posts, Gill reported buying 53 grand in stock, an idea that struck most as laughable. Everyone knew the hedge fund guys (“smart money”) were going to cash out big when GameStop crashed and burned. That’s how the world works, a truth Gill and his followers (“dumb money”) were destined to upend.
Gill calls himself Roaring Kitty on YouTube and DeepFuckingValue (DFV) on the subreddit thread, WallStreetBets, which is where he really takes off. His videos, recorded while wearing cat T-shirts and a red bandanna, catch on during lockdown. Soon, all manner of first time investors are using trading platforms such as RobinHood to invest their hard earned dollars just like their new hero, Roaring Kitty, who wins their confidence by posting spreadsheets of his entire stock portfolio. “If he is in, we are in.”
Director Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya, Lars and the Real Girl) and first-time screenwriters Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo, aided by ace editor Kirk Baxter (The Social Network), shift rapidly between connected story fronts: Keith at home, with his wife (Shailene Woodley) and baby and
the two-house estate of the initially derisive but gradually panicked hedge fund king, Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen). There are profiles too of Gill’s regular folk investors, including America Ferrera as a nurse and single mom, a loan-poor college couple played by Talia Ryder and Myha’la Herrold, and Anthony Ramos as a GameStop clerk with a boss (Dane DeHaan) who thinks him foolish for investing.
That boss isn’t exactly wrong. Surely none of these people should be pouring the little money they have into an online pipe dream, but an emotionally nimble cast makes the character’s faith in Roaring Kitty easy to believe and to root for. At one time or another, we’ve all hoped that the Pied Piper is one and true.
While all the characters are types, without any backstories, there’s pleasure in watching good actors shade in the empty spaces, and more than once, real laughs to be found in the easy villainy of the hedge fund guys. Arrogant zillionaire Ken Griffin (Nick Offerman) may be gleeful when Plotkin needs bailout cash but he deflates like a bully in the principal’s office when called to testify before Congress. That hearing is prompted by nefarious machinations by the RobinHood app, whose leader, Vlad Tenev (Sebastian Stan), suggests that you can indeed earn a billion and still be a complete moron.
Back in Massachusetts, Keith Gill’s GameStop stock keeps going up, and so too does the estimation with which his brother, Kevin (Pete Davidson), holds him. A bicycle riding DoorDash delivery guy (“I’m a first responder”), Kevin hasn’t amounted to much but he’s loyal– to his brother, to the memory of their late sister and to their working class parents (Kate Burton, Clancy Brown).
The cajoling interaction between the brothers gives Dumb Money its heart. Kevin the slacker keeps surprising Keith the genius, just as, one senses, Dano and Davidson surprised and delighted one another. A movie about heartless one percenters being taken down a peg by folks who shop at the mall, Dumb Money may really be about two brothers giving each other the business.
Editor’s note: The disclaimer below refers to advertising posts and does not apply to this or any other editorial stories. LA Weekly editorial does not and will not sell content.
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.