The Big Short
Rated R for pervasive language and some sexuality/nudity.
The money smelt, and earned, by the adventurers of this story of the real-life 2008 world economic meltdown is arguably tainted by bad karma. Based on a book by Michael Lewis, “The Big Short” is about how several traders and hedge fund managers made fortunes because they saw that the housing market’s decline would cause a collapse of bonds contrived from sub-prime mortgages. The terminology is both dry and dizzying, the machinations incredibly convoluted. The main thesis of the story, adapted for the screen by director Adam McKay and his co-screenwriter Charles Randolph, is that as banking became the top industry of the United States, bankers deliberately concocted Byzantine financial tools whose main function was to help the rich get richer and screw over the little guy. You can expect a lot of pushback against this film of the “where do these affluent Hollywood types get off criticizing income inequality” but that won’t mean the movie is wrong.
McKay is best known as the director of such comedic fare as “Anchorman,” and, for all the silly self-reflexive humor in those films, there’s a sly underlying intelligence animating them, and here that takes the form of celebrity cameos wherein attractive people such as Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez directly address the audience with cogent and colorful explanations of terms such as “sub-prime.” He also enlists “Anchorman” rep company member Steve Carell for one main role, as financial Prophet of Doom Mark Baum, whose own fund gets a whiff of what Gosling’s character is smelling and takes a piece of the action, in a partial fit of “screw the system” indignation. Carell’s self-torturing character is likely the closest thing this movie has to a directorial surrogate. Finn Wittrock and John Magaro play a couple of Jim Henson’s Hedge Fund Babies, mentored by Brad Pitt’s Ben Rickert. Rickert’s character can be read as something of a slight sendup of Pitt’s own current do-gooder persona; he’s a former master trader who left the game out of disgust, and who preaches a hippie-ish quasi-survivalist gospel to his two young acolytes even as he helps them get pretty much super-rich.
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