THE BIG SHORT – Review by Susan Granger
Based on Michael Lewis’s non-fiction 2010 best-seller, “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine,” this is the story of how those so-called “affordable and flexible” home mortgages encouraged borrowing by homeowners who were unable to repay their loans, causing the financial collapse of 2008. Read on…
Working with screenwriter Charles Randolph, it’s adapted and directed by Adam McKay, best known for his silly collaborations with Will Ferrell on “Anchorman” and “Talladega Nights.”
Which explains why McKay chose “Wolf of Wall Street” sexpot Margot Robbie to explain the opaque financial concept of mortgaged-backed securities while drinking champagne in a bubble bath.
Starting in 2005, this grimly comic drama revolves around two anti-social money managers. Scion Capital executive, bohemian Dr. Michael Burry (Christian Bale), predicts that the mortgage market has become a Ponzi scheme that’s doomed to fail and expresses his concern to perpetually rude Mark Baum (Steve Carell) on Wall Street in New York.
Confident, far-sighted Burry buys millions of dollars of financial instruments called ‘credit default swaps,’ or shorts, which will only pay off if and when the subprime market collapses.
Two ambitious younger guys, Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) and Charlie Geller (John Magaro), want to play in the big leagues, enlisting advice from ex-broker Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt), on their quest to get rich quick.
Serving as the audience’s narrator guide to the apocalypse is cynical Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) with a strong supporting cast that includes Melissa Leo as a straight-talking Standard & Poor’s analyst, along with Hamish Linklater, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong and Marisa Tomei. Selena Gomez and Anthony Bourdain play themselves.
Problem is: the writers create little or no backstory or character development, nor is there any suspense. So they repetitively chronicle what happened in technical Wall Street language.
Intrigued? I urge you to see “99 Homes,” a timely thriller exploring the same territory; starring Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon, it’s far better and scheduled for DVD release in February.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Big Short” is a perplexing 6, concluding that financial institutions are still corrupt.