The Big Short
Starring Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Finn Wittrock, Max Greenfield, Marisa Tomei, Melissa Leo
The Big Short is comedy writer/director Adam McKay’s first “drama” although it has been placed in the comedy category for Golden Globes consideration. This is also the first film McKay has directed without Will Ferrell starring. You might see this cast and think this movie has to be great, but what you don’t realize is that The Big Short, nominated for best ensemble at SAG, isn’t really a movie. It’s an experimental documentary/feature reenactment. My classification of this film will make about as much sense to the reader as watching this film will to the viewer. McKay is smart, he only got this movie made by agreeing to make Anchorman 2, because the studio knew this would never sell at the box office when the curtain was pulled on this films nature.
There was a guy named Louis who changed everything when he created a way for banks to bundle mortgages. In 2005 Dr. Michael Burry (Bale), an outsider and weirdo (shorts and barefoot at the office), also a brilliant numbers guy figured out the way Louis organized those bundled loans, were going to crash the housing market. No one believed him, he didn’t care, so he bought stock, betting against the bank and housing market. Jared Vennett (Gosling), a pinstripe banker in New York got wind of Burry’s theory, came to same conclusion, then pitched it to Mark Baum (Carell) who took some convincing but realized the end of Wall Street was near and also took the bait. All they had to do was wait until Burry’s predictions came true, the American people would lose, but a select smart few bet everything on the government and banking industry’s stupidity.
This script requires undivided attention, and even then you better take notes, because all the acronyms and financial language makes it feel like a foreign film.
The system is not only corrupt (shocker, we already knew that) but it’s very difficult to explain the system and the story in under two hours. McKay, coming from the slapstick background of entertainment pulls some pretty good gags, like using sidebar cutaways of Margot Robbie in a bubble bath to explain complex systems, or Selena Gomez in Vegas demonstrating how betting works. The actors also jump in and out of character, especially Gosling, who is narrating the story. They often talk directly to the camera, “this might seem untrue, but it really happened,” he might say, leaning back in his chair, then the scene will continue.
By the 90 minute mark I just wanted The Big Short to give me the pay off, show me the arrogant bankers and investors who laugh in the faces of these four separate groups get their comeuppance. This script requires undivided attention, and even then you better take notes, because all the acronyms and financial language makes it feel like a foreign film. “Does it make you feel bored and stupid,” the film asks at one point. McKay is toying with the audience while providing them with a unique look at the 2008 recession and what caused it. No performance really stands out (although SAG nominated Bale in the supporting category) in this ensemble and the entire film feels like a documentary dressed as a feature.
A visually creative way to feed an audience vast amounts of information but it doesn’t equate too much of a cinematic experience.