What Jesse said:
You need to watch The Big Short. Fantastic movie about the 2008 economic meltdown that manages to infuse just enough humour to balance the insanity of the world being on the brink of economic disaster. Christian Bale is amazing in it. Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell… awesome. My favourite scene involves an odd discussion between Carell’s character and a ‘dancer’ about real estate. So much cringe.
At first I couldn’t understand why Jesse cared to watch a film about banking. Sure, it’s got some notable people but it’s still about banking! Then it all became clear – his favourite dreamy Brad is in this. Funny how Jesse mentioned all those other notables but left out Brad Pitt again. At least in this one Pitt’s role is fairly subdued; and he’s actually believable as the jaded banker turned rich hippy who hates the game but will play it again anyway if you just ask him. Classic Pitt.
This film is an odd format. It starts out almost feeling like a documentary, but only partially. It flips back and forth between wanting to be a history lesson, indicting the banking industry for its lack of humanity, and a funny story about tangentially connected funny characters who have no respect for the forth wall. And it kind of works.
With such a complicated subject as the basis of the plot, there would inevitably need to be some means of clarifying exposition – and the writers decided to take the easy road: pause the movie and give the explanation. It works, because as jarring as these moments are, they are handled brilliantly by the characters who not only break the fourth wall but also introduce unrelated cameos from celebrities being themselves.
Jesse is right about Christian Bale; his character is so believable that by the end I felt like I knew him – his awkwardness is completely authentic without being over the top. Steve Carrel’s angry jerk who just cares too much has a rocky start, but eventually becomes a highlight as well.
It’s not all good though: the narrative is choppy at times, making it hard to follow the connections as they as developed. A number of scenes feel like they happen in the wrong order, but not in an intentional way. And then there are the magical Jenga blocks that go from tower to pile to tower again without any help.
The discussion with the ‘dancer’ isn’t nearly as interesting as Jesse suggests. The only cringing on my part was at how forced the scene felt – it doesn’t fit into this film at all and I suspect Jesse has other reasons for enjoying it…
About the halfway point I realized the biggest issue with this film: I was much less interested in the story or characters than I was in trying to understand the mechanics of the financial crisis. How come all these people saw the problem, independently, years ahead of time, but nobody did anything to stop it? How does debt become an investment? How do banks even keep their multi-level fraud schemes straight? The social math is just fascinating. But this movie won’t answer those questions – it feels like it will, but it won’t because it’s not a documentary. It’s entertainment.
And it is entertaining, but nonetheless disappointing because of everything that it won’t explain.
At the end, I still don’t understand the housing crisis at all; however I am now also very concerned about water.
6/10 – because it failed to live up to my unreasonable expectations.