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“Dumb Money” Pays Off

Written by: Hannah Tran | September 14th, 2023

Film poster: “Dumb Money”

Dumb Money (Craig Gillespie, 2023) 3½ out of 4 stars

Remember when a little subreddit could shake the pillars of Wall Street? If not, Craig Gillespie’s Dumb Money does a great job explaining the meme-infested world of “tendies” and “diamond hands” that made r/wallstreetbets an unlikely player in modern finance. Focusing on several key figures on either side of the aisle, from hedge-fund managers to ordinary people who got lucky, Gillespie (I, Tonya) turns complex stock-market shenanigans into a fun, emotionally charged underdog triumph.

An exceptional ensemble cast is led by a particularly captivating Paul Dano (The Fabelmans) as YouTuber Keith Gill, a.k.a. Roaring Kitty, whose Reddit posts about GameStop’s underrated value sparked the frenzy. Dano is charmingly awkward and easy to root for. Seth Rogen (Long Shot) and Sebastian Stan (Fresh) add a playful touch as they poke fun at the businessmen on the receiving end of other people’s good fortune. Still, there could have been more closure for some characters, such as Jenny, a nurse played by America Ferrera (Barbie). But overall, the actors push the emotional stakes of the story to their limit.

l-r: Pete Davidson and Paul Dano in DUMB MONEY ©Sony Pictures Entertainment

What truly sets this movie apart, though, is its mood. Its COVID-era world turns this not-too-distant story into a semi-dated period piece. The face masks and empty city streets feel too familiar, but the movie handles it with a level of both smugness and sympathy that works. And while some of the pandemic needle drops feel distracting, most add to the fun. It also helps that the actual score fits perfectly into the film and often serves to ground its high energy.

More often than not, the film strikes a nice balance between the gravity of the situation and the irreverent humor that captures these character’s lives. The jokes are clever and well-delivered, and they save it from ever getting too sentimental. This subversive attitude also builds a tone in line with the larger thematic ideas about intuition, steadfastness, and forcing change in unjust systems. 

America Ferrera in DUMB MONEY ©Sony Pictures Entertainment

Dumb Money is the type of film that gets better as it goes. As the story expands, the editing sharpens, and the direction gains more confidence, resulting in a roller-coaster ride of a third act. So although the real-life events may be more of a one-time phenomenon than the spirit of the movie would like to indicate, the journey is still a worthy investment of your money.


Hannah Tran is a film critic and filmmaker from Las Vegas, Nevada. Hannah works as a film screener for the Las Vegas Film Festival and publishes an independent zine focused on highlighing Asian American filmmaking.

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