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Sunday, September 26, 2021

‘The Big Short’ review: Making finance interesting again

Left to right: Rafe Spall plays Danny Moses, Jeremy Strong plays Vinnie Daniel, Steve Carell plays Mark Baum, Ryan Gosling plays Jared Vennett and Jeffry Griffin plays Chris in The Big Short from (PARAMOUNT PICTURES and REGENCY ENTERPRISES)
Left to right: Rafe Spall plays Danny Moses, Jeremy Strong plays Vinnie Daniel, Steve Carell plays Mark Baum, Ryan Gosling plays Jared Vennett and Jeffry Griffin plays Chris in The Big Short from (PARAMOUNT PICTURES and REGENCY ENTERPRISES)

Nothing short of excellence from star-studded cast

The Big Short was one of the most highly anticipated films of the holiday season. Directed by Adam McKay and based on Michael Lewis’ book, the story provides a glimpse into the global financial crisis of 2008. This is director McKay’s first dramatic debut, having previously directed movies such as Step Brothers and Anchorman 2.

The Big Short uncovers the intricate makings of the market crash and the few people who were able to get ahead. The A-list cast of Steve Carrell, Christian Bale, Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling does not disappoint. The performances by the actors in this film are phenomenal.

Michael Burry, played by Bale, is an unconventional fund manager from California who foresees the eventual collapse of the financial market and decides to bet against it. As per usual, Bale delivers a superb performance, capturing the eccentricities of his character with a biting humor that has already won him multiple awards this season. Ben Rickert (Pitt) is a reclusive former banker helping the naïve Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) and Charlie Geller (John Magaro) navigate the waters of Wall Street. Pitt has a small role in the film and gives a solid, understated performance.

However it is Carell, playing Mark Baum, a money manager with an anger problem, who steals the show. Carell, who put on about 20 pounds to play Baum, is unrecognizable in this role. He has seamlessly made the transition from a comedic actor to an A-list movie star, capable of delivering compelling and dramatic performances. Carell’s character acts as a foil to Gosling’s character, Jared Vennet, a smug trader who works the floors of Wall Street and is obsessed with appearance and money. As he did in movies like Crazy, Stupid, Love, Gosling does an excellent job of balancing between arrogance and charm. His character is unabashedly self-centered but remains continually entertaining and a joy to watch.

The cinematography, on the other hand, was not as impressive as the acting. There were old clips from MTV and Funny or Die videos interspersed between scenes. These clips, which were all dated from between 2005 to 2008, were meant to give us a sense of time passing, but the quick jumps were simply distracting and brought on motion sickness. The fact that the director is the founder of Funny or Die also makes the use of these superfluous clips seem like blatant self-promotion and took away from the serious story at hand.

However, a stylistic choice that I did enjoy was McKay’s idea to have random celebrities show up to explain complicated financial concepts. For example, there was a scene in which we see Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street) naked in a bubble bath drinking champagne. She then goes on to explain how mortgages work, what a subprime mortgage is and why these mortgages are so risky — all while sipping from a flute of champagne in the bathtub. There are similar lessons interspersed throughout the movie, including appearances from Selena Gomez and Anthony Bourdain. These scenes were a brilliant move on McKay’s part because he was able to make the often complex world of finance accessible to all audiences.

With clever scenes like these and help from a talented cast, McKay has crafted an entertaining and informative account of the Great Recession. For those who were too young to understand what was happening when the 2008 financial crisis hit, this movie will depict, in an easily understandable fashion, the corruption and negligence that caused it all.
WRITTEN BY: Cara Kleinrock – arts@theaggie.org

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