The Big Short
The Big Short falls a bit short.
Based on the Michael Lewis best-seller, comedic director and former Saturday Night Live writer Adam McKay decided to tackle a serious subject. The co-creator of the Funny or Die website (and comedies Anchorman, Step Brothers, Talladega Nights, Get Hard, and The Other Guys), does want to incorporate a lot of humor into the story. So instead of just getting Oscar nominated actors (Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo) to play quirky characters, we have a frantic pacing and energy, with narrator Gosling breaking the fourth wall and explaining complicated terms. Sometimes he brings in famous people like pop star Selena Gomez, chef Anthony Bourdain, and model/actress Margo Robbie in a bubble bath — so they can break the fourth wall and humorously dumb down the content for us dummies (although I must admit, there will still a few things I’m not sure I got). Sometimes that worked, sometimes it didn’t. Robbie’s appearance just makes us think of her movie The Wolf of Wall Street, which this movie really wanted to be.
So, a handful of guys saw that the financial crisis was going to occur in 2008. They made a fortune investing in Credit Default Swaps in the market collapse of Collateralized Debt Obligations. Yet the movie wants to get preachy blaming the big banks, and root for these guys. Well…they didn’t warn anybody or anything. They just got rich exploiting the system. I suppose we’re not supposed to feel bad rooting for them, since they had such disdain on their face when they’d ask the bankers why they’d give loans to people that clearly didn’t make enough money to pay them back, or weren’t smart enough to read the fine print on what interest rates they’d be faced with.
A much more interesting movie could’ve been made if they stuck with a drama and didn’t try to get so cute. It should’ve just stuck with Christian Bale’s character. He’s a former neurologist who became a Wall Street whiz. He has a glass eye, Asperger’s, and is rather awkward in the social department. In one scene, he’s interviewing somebody and tells him he likes his haircut. He asks the interviewee if he “did it himself.” He walks around his office barefoot and blasting heavy metal while playing air-drums. Give us that movie, instead of Steve Carell doing another weird and distracting voice (remember Foxcatcher?). It felt like he was doing a his Office character with double the IQ and double the awkwardness.
The movie had a lot of interesting things going for it. There was a yelling montage that was fun. Often times, people were cut off in the middle of what they were saying. We knew where it was going when they did that, and it was neat.
A few other things were hard to buy, like the way characters had to go and talk to homeowners and real estate agents to see for themselves…or they had to look angry while talking to weasels that have written up bad loans to make a quick buck. The bankers would laugh as they talked about all the strip clubs they go to and the yachts they’re buying. Oh, and there was even a strip club where Carell gets to talk to a woman about the many houses she owns. We’re supposed to believe a scenario like that would happen, with a stripper sharing all the details of her loan with the type nerdy client she usually hustles for lap dances and big tips.
I’m also a bit perplexed as to why we’re supposed to consider the guys in this heroes, when they had their own selfish interests. And didn’t the Clinton administration say that everyone should own a home? Perhaps everyone shouldn’t own a home. The banks may have done some shady stuff, but it got rather preachy and I don’t think it presented all the facts. I felt the same way when the movie The People vs. Larry Flynt wanted us to root for a smut peddler, as if he fighting for free speech everywhere. Just like that movie, he is a guy that wanted to get rich, nothing more. Instead, we’re supposed to like Carell because he wants to expose all the BS the big banks are getting away with. The “heroes” in this movie were exploiting the system and getting rich, but because Brad Pitt snaps at the two young guys he helps do it — we’re supposed to like them.
The movie was a bit gimmicky and often felt like a long lecture. Yet I found it nicely paced for the long run time. It was better than The Wolf of Wall Street, but not nearly as good as Wall Street or Boiler Room.
It gets 3 stars out of 5, and you’re going to see lots of Oscar nominations for this one. It’s the type of story and performances, Academy members love.