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The Big Short - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
The Big Short
Directing: A-
Acting: A-
Writing: A-
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+

The details of the 2008 housing crisis that put the global economy in a tailspin are complicated indeed. The major accomplishment of The Big Short is how director and co-writer Adam McKay not only understands this, but manages to explain what happened, and how it happened, in layman's terms. And he does it with uniquely entertaining execution, with asides from cameos by the likes of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and pop star Selena Gomez, among others, to explain what was going on for us. The first such aside is from Australian actress Margot Robbie, shipping champagne in a bubble bath, breaking it all down for us.

This is how McKay makes this story thoroughly entertaining -- an impressive feat, not only for a story about the predatory lending that caused the Great Recession, but also for a director otherwise best known for doofus comedies like both the Anchorman films and Step Brothers. What's he doing at the helm of a movie like this one? Making it a hell of a lot of fun to watch, that's what. You don't expect that of a story like this one. In fact, it kind of ends with a reminder of how few consequences there really were for the banks that totally knew what they were doing, and that the system is nearly as fucked as it ever was. It feels a little weird to have that reminder after having so much fun watching a movie about it.

And there's a lot of great performances here, by quite a lot of big name actors. Christian Bale is Michael Burry, the hedge fund manager who perused enough subprime mortgages to see as early as 2005 where the economy was headed: by 2007, things were going to go south. So he decided to bet against the housing market, in ways the movie explains neatly but I can't remember well enough to explain here. Just a few other people catch wind of this and decide to get in on the action: the deeply cynical hedge fund manager Mark Baum (a fantastic Steve Carell); trader Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling, who narrates the story); young investors Charlie Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock); their banker-turned-hippie neighbor/friend Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt, who also serves as co-producer).

These are all people who either see where the economy is headed or catch wind of it, and decide to find some way to take advantage of it. Deciding whether to root for them is complicated; many of them think of it as "sticking it to the man," but in the end their aim is to profit from the detriment of millions of people, many of whom wound up homeless. This sort of makes Mark Baum the moral center of the story -- he's constantly ranting about companies that do shady business and how that's never a sustainable practice. He winds up more disillusioned than anyone, after realizing the true scale of this problem.

This is a fascinating companion piece to the excellent 2011 film Margin Call, which is more about the banking people The Big Short's characters are intent on taking advantage of. Margin Call was much more of a drama, though -- albeit an equally entertaining one; The Big Short goes out of its way to be funny. It's surprisingly successful at it, which is a relief, because otherwise you might leave the theatre feeling monumentally depressed. McKay offers a lot of laugh-out-loud moments.

The editing is maybe a little self-consciously "snappy," but it's also effective. For a movie about a bunch of different people talking about finance, it's impressive that The Big Short is never boring. This can also be credited to the acting; Bale and Carell in particular are excellent. Ryan Gosling presents as a little strange as an unapologetically self-serving douche, but his narration fits. This is the kind of movie that will wow even viewers who are skeptical that it will be of any interest to them. The characters are all based on real people, and some pretty amazing things happen that Gosling, as Jared Vennett, will tell us specifically "this really happened." (In a kind of fun meta turn, other characters at one point clarify for us that the scene we just watched actually didn't happen exactly the way it was just depicted.) In other words, you might think this movie doesn't interest you, but you'd be wrong. Give it a chance and you won't regret it.

the big short

Overall: B+
1 comment or Leave a comment
Heather McCrillis From: Heather McCrillis Date: January 11th, 2016 03:04 am (UTC) (Link)
If I didn't know any better, I'd think that was Mark Cuban in that picture.
1 comment or Leave a comment