Sony Pictures’ “Dumb Money” could be the most frightening horror movie this year, and the Oscars would be smart to embrace it. From the critically acclaimed director Craig Gillespie, his smart and at times tragic look at the GameStop stock story of 2021 entertained the audiences of the Toronto Film Festival on Friday night where it held its world premiere.
TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey introduced the film and Gillespie brought up his fellow producers Aaron Ryder and Teddy Schwarzman, along with EPs and writers Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo, who sported the film’s title on each of their purses.
“Dumb Money” is based on the book “The Antisocial Network” by Ben Mezrich. It tells the true story of a group of amateur investors from the Reddit page WallStreetBets who banded together to put the squeeze on at least two hedge funds that had bet that GameStop shares would fall.
The large ensemble cast includes Paul Dano, Pete Davidson, Vincent D’Onofrio, America Ferrera, Nick Offerman, Anthony Ramos, Sebastian Stan, Shailene Woodley, Seth Rogen, Dane DeHaan, Talia Ryder, Rushi Kota and Myha’la Herrold. Yet again, we have another worthy contender for best cast ensemble at the SAG Awards.
With Gillespie’s signature quick edits and terrific needle drops like Cardi B’s “WAP,” the film’s quick pace and effective storytelling will be appetizing to multiple branches of the Academy.
One of the clearest pathways is adapted screenplay, despite a crowded race already that includes “Killers of the Flower Moon” and “Oppenheimer.” Similar to J.C. Chandor’s nominated work for “Margin Call,” the movie makes the overly complicated processes of financial trades and stocks feasible for the non-pro viewer to understand and digest.
Despite a career that has included acclaimed performances in “There Will Be Blood” (2007) and most recently, “The Fabelmans,” Dano has yet to pick up Academy recognition. His work as financial guru Keith, a.k.a. Kitty, is one of the actor’s finest. He would likely be pushed for lead actor (though there’s an argument this is an ensemble play and all should go supporting), and the race has presented itself as extremely competitive already with Colman Domingo, Bradley Cooper and Leonardo DiCaprio among the many names contending. If the film is submitted for the comedy category at the Golden Globes, the actor might have a decent shot at recognition there.
What was most surprising is the standout performance from “Saturday Night Live” alum Pete Davidson as the DoorDash employee and younger brother of Keith who still lives home with his parents. The character perfectly calls on Davidson’s range, even giving him the opportunity to shine with a very effective crying scene and memorable one-line zingers. I wouldn’t be mad adding his name to the longlist of supporting actor hopefuls.
Ferrera is having a notable moment with the success of Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie,” in which she has a strong shot at garnering a supporting actress nom. I initially wondered if “Dumb Money” could help or hurt her recognition within the Academy. She breaks your heart once again as a single mom and nurse who is aching for a big break.
Director Gillespie, who helmed my favorite film of 2017, “I, Tonya” with Margot Robbie, and delivered the beautiful “Lars and the Real Girl” with Ryan Gosling, has a knack of creating light-hearted moments in serious, real-life situations. In “Dumb,” the Australian filmmaker brings all his great sensibilities to the forefront. The film rests on its highbrow entertainment value, and should it be a solid moneymaker. I’d keep an eye on him to be in the mix for his first directing nom (although there could be challenges due to genre and competition).
Natural comparisons to the best picture-nominated “The Big Short” by Adam McKay will be plentiful. “Dumb Money” was far more effective. If that movie can win adapted screenplay, this film’s scribes can at minimum be nominated.
The film is one of Sony Pictures’ notable titles this awards season, alongside the animated feature “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” and the upcoming epic “Napoleon,” co-distributed with Apple Original Films. The studio is hoping for their first best picture-nominated movie since “Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood” (2019), after coming up short with last year’s “The Woman King.”