Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for the movie “Dumb Money.”
Sony Pictures’ latest release, “Dumb Money,” debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 8, 2023. Since then, the film has steadily made its way into the box office, beginning with a limited release in prominent theaters in New York and Los Angeles, and ending with a final wide release on Oct. 6.
This star-studded dramedy follows the true story of Keith Gill (Paul Dano), a retail investor who gained popularity for his online persona, Roaring Kitty, and his particularly passionate posts about the GameStop stock on the subreddit r/wallstreetbets. It is in this forum where fans quickly changed their perspective on the seemingly failing video game retailer and followed Gill’s lead in buying GameStop shares. Soon, the stock, which hedge funds and institutional investors once reaped the benefits of, soared to a staggering high, leaving the Roaring Kitty fans with more money than they have ever seen before.
The movie goes beyond Gill himself and explores the lives of the everyday investors who religiously tune into Roaring Kitty’s posts and streams. A single mother and COVID first responder drowning in massive credit card debt, a college girl stuck with the burden of her dead father’s financial troubles, and a poorly paid GameStop employee with a nagging boss perfectly encapsulate the real-life frustrations of surviving in an unforgiving economy. These individuals sharply contrast with Seth Rogan and Nick Offerman’s characters, Gabe Plotkin and Kenneth C. Griffin, who live luxurious lives in mansions, leisurely play golf and have personal chiropractors.
The film’s back-and-forth scenes between the ocean-view residences of Plotkin and Griffin and the dark basement-turned-streaming-studio of Gill’s Massachusetts home is a subtle yet piercing nod at the extreme economic disparities of 2021. These shots make it all the more satisfying when the investors begin to lose billions of dollars at the same rate as Gill and his fans gain millions.
Australian director Craig Gillespie, widely known for his films “I, Tonya” and “Cruella,” is no stranger to spotlighting individuals who are background characters in another’s story. In an interview with Forbes, Gillespie explains how the COVID-19 pandemic majorly contributed to such a bizarre phenomenon as the GameStop stock frenzy.
“COVID was this profound moment that we had with humanity that none of us had experienced previously. There was the real sense of frustration, people losing their jobs, losing loved ones, small businesses shutting down, and this real disparity of wealth was front and center.”
Perhaps some of the most relatable aspects of this film are the disturbingly recent time period and all-too-familiar dread of an unpredictable future and the somber new normal the world had to adapt. While each Roaring Kitty follower dealt with the pandemic in their own unique way, they all shared the same sense of hope for GameStop’s growth. Gill’s emotional thank you to his audience after GameStop’s initial spike is a representation of this communal hope and a transitional moment from just another internet meme to a tight-knit community of the little guys. The film’s progression makes it clear that Gill’s platform became a place of belonging for many people, a place to collectively share in the excitement of making money at the expense of hedge funds and hotshots.
Gillespie goes on to explain the rush to grow an unexpectedly fruitful stock “was a way that they could stick it to these one percenters, or the point one percent in this case, and hit them where it hurts, which is their wallet, and simultaneously make money. It was a win-win with a very complicated moral quandary going on as well.”
This us-against-them mentality persists throughout the entirety of the film. Such a feeling has always had a place in society, but the particularly trying times and financial uncertainty of the pandemic make it all the more intense. Gillespie’s choice to lean into the sheer passion and exhilaration of frustrated lower-class individuals besting big-time investors leads the audience to root for the dark horses from beginning to end. Viewers are taken so intimately into the lives of Gill and his followers that it becomes impossible not to feel a sense of connection to their stories. Every win and loss feels personal, and it becomes something much bigger than the stock market and trades.
“It’s about the individual who feels marginalized, the underdog, and that community coming in and holding the industry accountable,” he also notes. Through an incredibly comedic, raunchy lens, Gillespie pulls many heartstrings in the most unexpected ways.
“Dumb Money” is a hilarious retelling of a story that highlights Reddit nerds and meme lovers alike as they maneuver through a revolutionary war against the dominating stock market forces. Thanks to both the film and Roaring Kitty himself, the underdogs of the investment world finally have their time to shine. They just like the stock, after all.
Brenna Hiett is an Arts & Entertainment Intern for the Fall 2023 quarter. She can be reached at email@example.com.