Directed by: Craig Gillespie
Written by: Lauren Schuker Blum, Rebecca Angelo
Starring: Paul Dano, Pete Davidson, Vincent D’Onofrio, America Ferrera, Nick Offerman, Anthony Ramos, Sebastian Stan, Shailene Woodley, Seth Rogen, Dane DeHaan
Released: October 26, 2023
Grade: B+

Dumb Money

On 27 January 2021, a friend sent the following message to a small group chat I’m a part of – “Are you guys following the gamestop stock price atm and the back story?” to which I responded “Nah, got a story link?”  I then fell down the rabbit hole and read countless articles, tweets, and threads about an event which was both riveting and alarming.  Even as it was happening, you knew it would be covered in finance textbooks for decades to come.

If you’re new to the tale, it revolved around a GameStop, a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange which operated video game stores around the world.  Its 2019 financial statements painted a bleak picture.  Revenue hadn’t grown in a decade, the company had recorded a record loss of $673 million USD, and the share price was falling.  An article published on the Nasdaq website on 9 March 2020 described it as “the most shorted stock in the market.”  In other words, investors had taken positions which would allow them to profit if the share price fell further.

What followed in the months ahead was unprecedented.  A YouTuber named “Roaring Kitty” started hyping the stock and his views were heavily promoted on the social new platform Reddit.  He’d also put “his money where his mouth is” and wasn’t afraid to show the public how much of his own portfolio (most of his life savings) he’d invested into GameStop.

It took a little while for momentum to build but by January 2021, a national “movement” had been created where a hoard of investors, many with no experience whatsoever, were buying the stock and pushing up its value.  In the 9 months between April 2020 and January 2021, the share price went from $2.57 to $483.00 – an increase of 18,694%!  Shareholders were loving it but on the flip side, the major hedge funds who had shorted the company were now racking up billions in losses.

I’m impressed by how quickly this story has been adapted into multiple art forms.  A three-part documentary, Eat the Rich: The GameStop Saga, debuted on Netflix in September 2022.  Acclaimed author Ben Mezrich, who wrote the novel upon which The Social Network was based, had a book in stores by September 2021.  It’s Mezrich’s work which serves as the source material for Dumb Money, helmed by Australian director Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya).

I’ll admit to already knowing much of what we see on screen, but Gillespie and his crew deserve credit for taking a wide breadth of material and condensing it into a tight 104 minutes.  The cast are terrific with each actor given just enough time to help us understand their perspective – from Paul Dano (Love & Mercy) as the socially awkward YouTuber to Seth Rogen (The Fablemans) as an overconfident hedge fund manager.

In addition to being eye-opening and educational, the film also provides many amusing sequences.  Some of these are short and sweet (Pete Davidson as a DoorDash delivery driver) while others take time to build (arguments around the family dinner table when Dano’s character talks about how much money he’s made).  Gillespie also finds humour in the unusual time period, right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, by having certain characters wear face masks (the stuff between Dane DeHaan and Anthony Ramos is great).

Helping win audiences over with its Little Guy beating the Big Guy narrative, Dumb Money is entertaining and engaging.