What you need to know before you see ‘Dumb Money’

Everything you need to know about this fascinating story about money, power, and politics.
September 14, 2023 11:29 a.m. EST

Wall Street doesn’t exactly have the best reputation these days, and public favour towards rich folks in general continues to dwindle. That makes now a great time for Dumb Money, the latest story about everyday people taking on a big, bad entity: investment bankers.

Dumb Money made its world premiere at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival, where it was one of the buzziest Gala Debuts. Australian director Craig Gillespie walked the red carpet to promote the film, marking his first return to TIFF since 2017, when he brought I, Tonya to audiences.

Thinking about checking out the film at TIFF or ahead of its Sept. 22 theatrical release? Read on for everything you need to know about this fascinating story about money, power, and politics.

This is inspired by true events

Many strange things happened in 2020, but in the financial world, the story of GameStop was one of them. It all started with a regular old guy named Keith Gill, who sank his entire life savings (just over $50,000) into the GameStop stock. Then, he posted about it online and shared his reasoning on a popular Reddit channel.

Suddenly, it caught fire. Nonprofessional investors (“retail investors” as they’re known in the biz), began following Gill and investing in the stock, skyrocketing it. More importantly, they held and didn’t sell when they made a ton of money back, because to them, this purchase was also a social movement.

You don’t need to know much about stocks to enjoy this movie

Dumb Money does an excellent job of weeding out the confusing jargon and explaining the market, so you don’t need to know much about the world of investing before going in. However, the nuances of investing are part of what makes the real-life story so interesting.

Part of the reason Gill was interested in GameStop stock was because investors—in particular those from a firm called Melvin Capital Management—had shorted it. Short selling is what it sounds like: an investor borrows a stock short-term and sells it for market value, betting that it will decrease. Then, the investor buys the stock back for less money later, pocketing a profit. It’s risky, but experienced investors do practice it. And sometimes, they try to drive the price down on purpose.

Historically, short sellers have caused some companies to fail. During the pandemic, people were all about supporting small businesses and helping others stay afloat, so rich people getting richer by causing others to fail didn’t sit right with a lot of people. In other words, the timing was right for a short squeeze.

With a short squeeze, a stock that has been sold short rises so much that investors will repurchase the stock to minimize loses. Typically retail investors will sell off before that happens, but when a determined group of people get together, as was the case with GameStop, it led to a $6.8 billion loss for Melvin Capital Management in a month.

The film is based on a book

There are many more nuances to this story, including shady moves from the “commission-free” trading and investing app Robinhood, political interference, and official inquiries. All of that and more was covered in The Antisocial Network: The GameStop Short Squeeze by author Ben Mezrich. That book serves as the inspiration for this movie.

It features an all-star cast

Dumb Money is a complicated but feel-good story, brought to life by loud music (including Cardi B’s “WAP”) and stellar acting. Seth Rogen plays the head of Melvin Capital Management, while Paul Dano embraces the role of Keith Gill. Shailene Woodley is Gill’s wife, Pete Davidson plays his brother, and actors like America Ferrera, Myha’la Herrold and Anthony Ramos play some of the everyday investors who sink their money into GameStop.

Other actors among this impressive cast include Nick Offerman, Vincent D’Onofrio, Talia Ryder, Sebastian Stan, Kate Burton and Clancy Brown.

No cats were harmed in the making of this film

If you like cats, you’re going to love this movie. If you hate cats, you’ll love to make fun of them in this movie. That’s because in real life Gill had something of a cat obsession and used them in his videos. In fact, his username was Roaring Kitty and some of his cat shirts are downright aspirational.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs until Sunday, Sept. 17. Catch Dumb Money when it debuts in theatres Sept. 22.

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