I don’t know if I’d say I was excited for this movie; I feel like curious would be a better word. I was curious about Adam McKay, who is one of Hollywood’s top comedic directors, taking on serious material with an all star cast-including: Steve Carell, Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, and Christian Bale to say the least. For those of you who don’t know the name McKay, let me just list a few of his most notable films: Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers, and The Other Guys. Yes, that’s who he is; he is Will Ferrel’s creative muse. And now he’s trying his hand at a subject that isn’t at all a funny one.
And here’s the crazy part…it’s actually really good.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Big Short for a number of reasons. In plain terms, it deserves all of the Oscar nominations it received. Similar to Spotlight, it is an important film. And similar to The Martian, it has a healthy sense of humor.
The big selling point of this film is the cast, and they’re all fantastic. Steve Carell and Christian Bale are the notable standouts. Carell so convincingly embodies anger towards the system, and also heartache for the 99%. Meanwhile, Bale plays a complete numbers whiz who lacks any social skills whatsoever that discovers the ticking time bomb that is the housing market. It’s one of the quickest characters I’ve seen him play, and he disappears into the role. You believe that he’s as smart as he says he is, and you’re able to root for him as he makes ludicrous claims against the big banks because you believe he’s as socially awkward as he is. Brad Pitt is very good, although he doesn’t have a lot of screen time to work with. His character is just as quirky as those of Bale and Carell-and like those two, he completely sells it. Ryan Gosling is good in his role, although character is the weakest in the movie by far. He’s the cool pretty boy on Wall Street who’s betting it all, and our primary narrator of the story. Gosling plays it well; but even so, his character was the one that I walked out of the theatre forgetting about the most.
Moving behind the camera, I really must praise Adam McKay’s work here. While some of his choices weren’t as well executed as others, it’s safe to say that you feel his passion oozing through the screen. He tells this story with a fast pace, and lots of heart. In addition to that, he makes a lot of unconventional choices to help the audience understand the complicated source material a bit better-aka, Wall Street jargon. For example, he’ll have celebrity cameos pop up out of nowhere to explain a certain aspect of the banking industry, or how all of the bad loans are able to prop up until they implode. It added humor to the movie, and a little bit more entertainment value to an already entertaining interpretation of this story.
I mentioned earlier how this movie felt important, like another big Oscar contender, Spotlight. It also had a funny side, like The Martian. McKay and the writers really did a good job of keeping a pretty boring subject entertaining through fleshed out characters and interesting sequences, with good dialogue as well. They do an equally good job at allowing the entertainment to suck you in so that they can paint the bigger picture-a portrait of capitalism in it’s worst form. The film portrays Wall Street as a place full of greedy, corrupt men running a system that’s built of fraud and cheating. By the end of it all, you’re sickened by the pure heartlessness of the corporations and individuals that our main characters are going after. Steve Carell really lets his dramatic muscles flex in these sequences; it’s his excellent performance that allows the film to transcend to new heights by the end. He is really the eyes of the American people; and he pulls it off brilliantly along with McKay’s direction and the extremely clever writing. The whole movie really does it’s most important job by telling a cautionary tale of American greed.
Overall, I can’t help but be amazed by how this movie was able to keep my riveted by the story despite most of the Wall Street jargon going over my head. Unfortunately, that’s not to say that all of the complicated discussions about Wall Street’s ins and outs didn’t affect my viewing experience a little bit. I can’t really fault McKay or the writers, because they really did try to make it as plain as possible for us common folk. Sometimes, though, the numbers and terms behind the story do get a little confusing. The big important ones are pretty cut and dry, but other than that you really have to pay attention to fully grasp it all. Interstellar suffered from a similar problem last year when dealing with complex scientific conversations; but that movie was still widely loved-and even went on to give it lots of replay value. I think the same will happen for The Big Short, because it really is impossible to soak in all of the information thrown at you unless you’re actually a banker.
That’s my biggest negative with the movie. Other than that, I’d say it’s totally worth the price of admission. If anything, I’d say it’s best if the first time you watch this movie is in a theatre, because you’ll have little to no distractions to keep you from losing yourself in the complex material.
Don’t let the complexity intimidate you, though. This movie is asking that you watch and pay attention, like any movie. And because it’s well directed and well acted, I feel like you’ll be entertained regardless of if you walk out having not understood the entire plot. I certainly was. I wish that I had seen this movie before I made my Top Ten Favorites of 2015 list, because it certainly would have been on there somewhere.
That was a good time at the movies.