Dumb Money (2023)
Directed by Craig Gillespie
Written by Lauren Schuker Blum, Rebecca Angelo
Starring Paul Dano, Shailene Woodley, Pete Davidson, Seth Rogen, Nick Offerman, Sebastian Stan
Release Date September 22nd, 2023
Published September 22nd, 2023
Dumb Money feels like an unearned, incredibly premature victory lap for the proletariat. The story of a group of independent investors, led by a Redditor nicknamed Roaring Kitty, upending the Wall Street system by investing in, of all things, Game Stop, a video game retailer run so poorly that it's an absolute wonder how they have lasted as long as they have. By finding a blind spot in the arrogance of a Wall Street hedge fund practice, Roaring Kitty, aka Keith Gill (Paul Dano), made millions and drove one billionaire hedge fund out of business, though realistically, only took Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen) from a being a billionaire to being a multi-multi-multi-millionaire.
It's impossible for me not to be cynical about anything related to Wall Street. In my lifetime I have watched Wall Street grow in strength and wealth all while paying off regulators and lawmakers to prop them up to the point where billions of dollars have flowed from everyday Americans into the hands of Wall Street hustlers just to keep those billionaires from crashing the country into a depression so they can keep buying needless numbers of houses, cars and consumer items that add nothing to the everyday economy.
Not since the age of Marie Antoinette have we seen rich fat pigs rolling in the filth of their own wealth in public the way we do today. We've literally watched billionaires build themselves rockets to take vacations in space while people struggle to have money for food. Jeff Bezos asked us to stand up and cheer for him when he returned from what amounted to a day trip to space. Meanwhile, a mother somewhere in America was scraping pennies together to buy baby food. So excuse me if I don't' view one minor victory over the greedy pigs of Wall Street as good enough.
And, I'm sorry, that's all that the Game Stop thing was, a very brief victory of the proles over the privileged. All that the Game Stop thing did was provide other billionaires a cautionary tale. Now they know exactly what doors to close behind them to prevent this from ever happening again. I appreciate what Reddit did to game this system for a short time but there is only so much outsiders can do to fight this system. Game Stop provided the billionaires a road map to how to stay rich in the face of any kind of revolt within their own rigged Wall Street system.
Dumb Money plays as a hopeful tale about a wild eyed outsider who beat Wall Street but did he really beat Wall Street? He got rich, a few dozen of his most devoted followers made some money. But, as Dumb Money demonstrates, the very, very rich were hardly bothered. There is a scene in the movie where Seth Rogan's Gabe Plotkin talks about losing a billion dollars per day for three straight days. So what does he do? He calls another billionaire who happily props him up with $6 billion dollars. Plotkin's Melvin Capital was sold to another billionaire for millions of dollars and Plotkin started another company and made more money. Today, he's the co-owner of the Charlotte Hornets Basketball team.
There was no real victory here. Director Craig Gillespie wants us to buy in on a slobs versus snobs narrative where the little guy comes out on top but he's picked the wrong story. Game Stop is a cute story and occasionally it's a little funny watching a guy in a series of cat t-shirts and a silly headband get one over on the billionaires, but forgive me if I am not impressed. Our system has only grown emore unfair and rigged even further in favor of the billionaires in the wake of Game Stop. Hell, even if the billionaires had felt a real pinch from Game Stop, they can just buy lawmakers who will happily hand over our tax dollars to protect them.
This movie has the audacity to let Elon Musk take a victory lap here, as if Elon Musk were some sort of champion of the underdog. Yes, Elon Musk did question the owners of Robin Hood Investments and he did force them to admit that they cheated when they shut off trading on Game Stop amid the worst losses of Robin Hood's real owners, Citadel Financial. But if you think Elon did that for any other reason than his own egotistical chest beating, you're sorely mistaken. If it comes down to the people versus the billionaires one day, which side do you think Elon Musk will be on?
Dumb Money feels like a sop, a way to appease the masses and tell us we can win one once in a while when the reality is there is only one way to win here, end all billionaires. No, not kill them, simply end the concept of billionaires via regulation. Tax billionaires to the point where they don't exist and redirect that wealth downward to the lower end of the economic ladder. That's the only victory that I will accept. Dumb Money is a pittance. It's a lie. It's Hollywood's notion of being populist. Hollywood wants us to cheer for Keith Gill and the few people he helped get rich, but it ends with text on screen telling us that Ken Griffin, the man who pulled all of the illegal strings behind the scenes, faced no consequences for lying to Congress, lying to stockholders, and generally gaming the system to further enrich himself, allegedly.
Dumb Money plays like some kind of victory lap for the little guy but the truth of it is actually quite bleak. The reality is that Wall Street is richer and more corrupt than ever before. They have bought all of the media, social media, and entertainment producing companies on the planet and they can now use those to make movies like Dumb Money and fool us into thinking that there is still a chance for equity in the world when there most assuredly is not. I like and appreciate the talent of director Craig Gillespie but Dumb Money needed more cynicism and less uplift. It needed more bite and less rah-rah cheerleading optimism. Of course, the Wall Street jerks who gave money to make Dumb Money wouldn't want that movie out in the world. Fact: We are worse off now than we've ever been compared to Wall Street and a movie that pretends that that isn't the case, is a bad movie.
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