Monday, February 08, 2016

Movie Review - The Big Short

The Big Short (2015)
Starring Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, John Magaro, Finn Wittrock, Hamish Linklater, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong, Adepero Oduye, Marisa Tomei, Melissa Leo, and Brad Pitt
Directed by Adam McKay

I know that The Big Short is a well-made, well-written, and well-acted film.  The issue is that the film which delves into 2007-08 the financial meltdown in which the housing market went belly up causing catastrophic damage to regular folks and the crooked big banks simply didn't resonate with me likely because I had no personal attachment to the crisis.  Granted, I don't need to have a personal connection to a film in order to become invested in it, but the overarching theme kept me at a bit of a distance despite being cleverly directed by Adam McKay so that the hefty and complicated subject matter seems a bit more relatable (and understandable) to the average moviegoer.

Quite frankly, there's no reason to delve into the story aspects of The Big Short in any greater detail than has already been mentioned because the film is a bit too complex to really simplistically explain.  Needless to say, the flick focuses on three groups or individuals who attempt to bring attention to the impending meltdown and are greeted with blank stares and laughs by those in charge.  Christian Bale is hedge fund manager Michael Burry who discovers the unsteady housing market and tries to use this to his advantage.  (Burry, admittedly, isn't really trying to "solve" the meltdown problem, he's just the first person who realized he may be able to use it to his advantage.) Steve Carell plays hedge fund manager Mark Baum who is approached by trader Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) to do the same thing Burry is doing, although Baum (whose Wall Street trader brother met an unfortunate demise) tries to uncover how the government is allowing it to happen.  Finally, up-and-coming young investors Charlie Geller and Jamie Shipley (John Magaro and Finn Wittrock) uncover paperwork by Vennett that reveals his thoughts on the crisis and enlist the help of noted financial guru Ben Rickart (Brad Pitt) to make money on the housing collapse only to have a change of heart as they realize the chaos that the collapse will cause.

All of the aforementioned actors do an admirable job of making their sometimes convoluted plots seem understandable and there's not a weak link in the cast.  That said, as I mentioned before, there's a lack of connection for me here that I wasn't quite able to overcome.  While the film doesn't necessarily play like a college finance course, it sometimes doesn't quite succeed in altogether abandoning that mindset.  McKay (who co-wrote the film with Charles Randolph) does some clever cutaways with celebrities to try and make the intricacies of the convoluted housing trade at least comprehensible, but in the end, there's somehow a lack of dramatic tension and human connection here.  The Big Short is still a surprisingly enjoyable watch, but it just never quite hit home with me despite a valiant effort.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

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