I know nothing about the economy. Anyone’s economy. I don’t think anyone really does. In movies, if there’s a bit about finance or the economy, I just pick up on the general mood of the conversation and stumble my way through from there.
That saying, The Big Short follows four different groups of men in the finance world who predict the housing bubble collapse of 2007/08, and decide to short the housing market to make a profit. It’s literally a film about the economy. But who knew a movie about the economy could be so entertaining?
The Big Short takes a rather dry subject and makes a fascinating, dramatic, enjoyable film out of it. Rather than alienating its audience with all the financial jargon, it explains itself to its viewers, using fourth wall breaks and celebrity cameos to make sure that not only does the audience understand what’s going on, but have fun whilst doing so. And a lot of that has to do with director Adam McKay (Anchorman, Stepbrothers). Known for his comedies and partnership with Will Ferrell, McKay injects life and humour into every scene, tackling a really difficult subject and managing to show the comically absurd side of one of the biggest financial disasters of our lifetime. It’s an angry comedy about how the banks got greedy and screwed over their customers, and in between every laugh there’s disbelief and frustration from our main players that this was even allowed to happen in the first place, and that no one saw it coming.
Speaking of angry, Steve Carell stars as Mark Baum, basically the angriest banker in New York, as he and his associates are drawn into the housing market short by Jared Vennett, played by a charismatic and fast talking Ryan Gosling (in a wig that’s even more hilarious than his character). Brad Pitt’s Ben Rickert and his two financial novices, Charlie and Jamie (played by John Magaro and Finn Wittrock) also get in on the shorting action, but the man who started it all? Christian Bale is Michael Burry, the man who first predicted the housing market collapse, in a superb performance that shows him as both man and genius, a man who is so clever he can make billions from a financial disaster, yet has trouble interacting with others. However, whilst Burry and Baum are both well rounded characters, there isn’t much character development for the rest of the team, and a few more rounded storylines for them would’ve taken the film above and beyond.
The Big Short is not only a fantastic financial film that gets its audience to connect with all aspects of the story, but it is an angry comedy that makes its audience angry too. It is both entertainment and a public service announcement, warning the viewers of the corruption of Wall Street and the financial industry, and if the audience learns anything from it, I hope it’s these two things: that we are just as capable of understanding the economy as the corrupt bankers and brokers, and that A-List stars in bad wigs are always funny.
Here’s my list of my five favourite movies starring the cast of the Big Short:
- Anchorman – Steve Carell and Adam McKay
- The Notebook – Ryan Gosling
- Pocahontas – Christian Bale
- Bruce Almighty – Steve Carell
- Fight Club – Brad Pitt