Thursday, December 17, 2015

Movie with Abe: The Big Short

The Big Short
Directed by Adam McKay
Released December 11, 2015

The housing and financial crisis that hit the United States this past decade is a subject ripe for cinematic adaptation. The American economy and its downward spiral have been the focus of a number of recent films, particularly documentaries about all the warning signs that could have prevented it and dramas about job loss and the unfortunate circumstances experienced by those who lost everything or close to it. Rarely are such films as jovial and equally packed full with data and humor as Adam McKay’s new film based on the book of the same name.

The story here is introduced by its de facto narrator, trader Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), who talks directly to the audience as he profiles the other players who were crucial in the run-up to the biggest financial disaster in recent U.S. history. Among them are eccentric doctor-turned-hedge fund manager Dr. Michael Burry (Christian Bale), angry money manager Mark Baum (Steve Carell), and paranoid retired banker Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt). Their stories play out individually but intersect occasionally, and the thread that links them all together is that they all saw the subprime mortgage crisis coming while the rest of the world didn’t.

“The Big Short” is heavy on information, and is fully cognizant of that. Jared assures the audience that certain topics will be revisited later while others are explained immediately. The film employs a humorous device throughout where celebrities are picked to explain a complicated economical concept, an acknowledgement of the fact that what they are saying goes over most people’s heads. Margot Robbie in a bubble bath is probably the film’s smartest tongue-in-cheek move, and that structure speaks volumes about the complexity of what this film is trying to argue. It’s confusing and daunting, certainly, but one thing is clear: most of the people complicit in this crisis didn’t even comprehend the things they were making up.

It’s difficult to pick out just one performer who steals the show, though Carell and Bale have been honored by various awards bodies for their performances. The ensemble interacts exceptionally well, and the ability of this film to feature so many different plotlines all tangentially connected at once is impressive. The script is smart and includes such a data dump that it’s incredible it manages to be remotely comprehensible. The film is undeniably eccentric and perhaps a bit too creative at times, but it’s a wildly entertaining and mind-boggling ride.


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