Craig Gillespie’s ‘Dumb Money’ Tells the Story of the GameStop Stock Campaign: NPR

Craig Gillespie’s comedy-drama Stupid money chronicles the 2021 Wall Street phenomenon known as the “GameStop short squeeze,” which pitted small investors against large hedge funds.


And now a David and Goliath story ripped from the internet. In 2021, amateur stock investors made a lot of money and threw hedge funds into disarray in what is known as the GameStop short squeeze. Critic Bob Mondello says he didn’t follow the story at the time but the new film comedy “Dumb Money” makes it crystal clear and funnier than you’d think possible.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: We meet Roaring Kitty A bit after we meet Keith Gill, although technically they’re the same person. Gill is a married man in his thirties with a baby who works for a life insurance company. But in his basement as Roaring Kitty, he dons a cat T-shirt and a red headband to talk to his YouTube and Reddit subscribers.


PAUL DANO: (As Keith Gill) Yo. What’s up, everyone? Kitty roaring here. I’ll choose a title and explain why I think it’s interesting. And that stock is GameStop.

MYHA’LA HERROLD: (as Riri) I love this guy.

MONDELLO: It’s not an uncommon reaction. Most Roaring Kitty fans like it, at least in part because it makes them a lot of money.


AMERICA FERRERA: (As Jennifer Campbell) If he’s in, I’m in.

HERROLD: (as Riri) If he’s in, I’m in.

FERRERA: (As Jennifer Campbell) Seventy thousand people have watched this video.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Roaring Kitty, I love you.

MONDELLO: He took all of his savings – $53,000 – and put them into GameStop, a chain of brick-and-mortar stores aimed at gamers. And in his video feed, he follows the progress of his purchase in real time. There are digital charts and graphs on the wall behind him. And as other people follow his lead, the stock goes up.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) GameStop – these shares don’t stop.

MONDELLO: This initially amuses the hedge fund guys who are betting against GameStop, that is, selling short.


VINCENT D’ONOFRIO: (as Steve Cohen) I think they think it’s a good investment – stupid money, man.

SETH ROGEN: (as Gabe Plotkin) Glad to take it.

MONDELLO: By betting against GameStop, hedge funds are essentially giving it a lift off a financial cliff, but if it doesn’t fail, they’re in trouble. And judging by the reports, they are in trouble.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) I’ll tell you, I’ve never seen anything like this.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) This is the craziest I think I’ve ever seen.

MONDELLO: Director Craig Gillespie knows how to keep a lively pace while juggling several narrative flows at once. There’s Paul Dano’s attractively geeky Keith Gill, and Shailene Woodley as his quietly astonished wife…


SHAILENE WOODLEY: (As Caroline Gill) How much did we win today?

DANO: (As Keith Gill) Five million.

WOODLEY: (as Caroline Gill) And yesterday?

DANO: (As Keith Gill) Four million.

WOODLEY: (as Caroline Gill) Baby.

DANO: (as Keith Gill) Yeah.

WOODLEY: (as Caroline Gill) We’re really rich.

MONDELLO: …Also a hilariously profane Pete Davidson as Gill’s slacker brother.


PETE DAVIDSON: (As Kevin Gill) So what are you going to do: buy a Ferrari? What is this (expletive)?

DANO: (as Keith Gill) Oh, the language. The baby is here.

MONDELLO: We meet a cross-section of Gill’s followers.


ANTHONY RAMOS: (as Marcos) When they strike, I’ll buy you a mansion.

DANO: (as Keith Gill) Let’s drink to that.

MONDELLO: And we also watch the hedge fund guys as they panic, with Seth Rogen responsible for the lion’s share of the panic.


OLIVIA THIRLBY: (as Yaara Bank-Plotkin) How much did we lose today?

ROGEN: (as Gabe Plotkin) A billion.

THIRLBY: (as Yaara Bank-Plotkin) And yesterday?

ROGEN: (as Gabe Plotkin) A billion. Do you have a minute?

MONDELLO: Now, it might occur to you at some point that what all these people are doing is basically gambling – stupid money and even dumber money – right? – many small bettors are going all-in, hoping to bring down what amounts to the Wall Street casino. It’s nice that for a while, little guys were able to outrun the billionaires, but as entertaining as “Dumb Money” is, it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of the American dream. In a few on-screen sentences at the very end, the filmmakers make the point that the success of all this stupid money has changed Wall Street practices for good – a beautiful thought. And if you believe it, do I have a stock for you. My name is Bob Mondello.


TONY K: (singing) I prefer to stay isolated like I’m an island. No, I can’t be where I don’t like the weather.

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