If you want to blame someone for something that you love but you mostly don’t understand, please blame Adam McKay (Anchorman, Anchorman 2) for his latest star-studded money-talk comedy The Big Short. In a most honest sense, this adaptation of Michael Lewis non-fiction is a white-collar crime drama and an invisible heist where we witness the rise of our all-star villains (or, more correctly, opportunist) during the tide of financial crisis of 2008, with much unmerciful attention to detail, which leads to your finest jaw-dropping moment.
I never say I understand it completely, even I must say I lost in translation while attempting to read the scheme of The Big Short. It’s full of subtexts –historical, economic, and political – and sh*ts I never heard in my life. Even 5 minutes on screen, fictional Mark Baum portrayed by Steve Carell breaks the fourth wall and tells audiences bleak and poignant: “I’m guessing most of you still don’t really know what happened,” then adds, “You got to have somebody to repeat so you don’t sound dumb.”
Not until Michael Burry by Christian Bale consoles me as he goes and tells: “Wall-street loves to use confusing terms, to make people think only they can do it,” before he asks Margot Robbie, in her return to stock madness, to explain it to us, which I suddenly translated as “Don’t overthink it, just enjoy!” And that’s the moment where I finally realized that The Big Short is surprisingly enjoyable, even if you’re a zero to the subject.
Our unlikely villains are only some men, bound by the same belief in the near future of American economy back in 2005. Michael Burry is the first to realize that there’s a bubble in American housing markets, which people thought as a rock-solid market. On other side of the country, Mark Baum and his unsatisfied band of misfits start to see similar ground; while two young beans, Jamie Shipley (Finn Whitrock) and Charlie Geller (John Magaro) who also learn about the same upcoming catastrophe call a retired banker, Ben Ricker (Brad Pitt) to do their deal. To “unofficially” link them is Jared Vennett, a cynical sport guy played by Ryan Gosling; who hears from a friend and tries his own luck. One thing in common between those guys: they’re betting against the housing market. In a simple statement: they’re eager to profit if the housing market falls, then people head toward homelessness and unemployment.
It’s never been an easy story to tell, but Adam McKay (and Charles Randolph as co-writer) insisted on making this poignant and unmerciful as he leads the audience to believe in his story-telling. The most frustrating part is the first 15 minutes that kickstart the whole first act. Without proper introduction to the characters and current situation, Barry Ackroyd’s unsteady camera mercilessly keeps shooting close to the character in fuzzy movements to balance the same fuzzy editing. To make it merrier, McKay adds many breaking-the-fourth-wall moments for his characters to clarify their stand-point or their ‘true origin’ within this story; in addition, he puts some celebrity cameo like Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez to give additional explanation on the subject.
To be honest, it really takes time to finally get into the story, but once it’s achieved, the whole point is clear. In simple words, The Big Short is a more realistic take to 2012 with financial crisis and housing market falls as the new ‘apocalypse’. Far from a zero-to-hero or who-wins-at-the-end formula, it’s more on ‘invisible’ moral conflict on taking benefits from others’ loss; the good news is, The Big Short doesn’t even try to justify this. In the end, that’s what makes it enjoyable although not digestible.
From the viewpoints of people with literacy to the depicted subject, The Big Short might be viewed differently; but from a self-admitting dumb like me, The Big Short is a no happy ending comedy. In the end, the comedy goes more bittersweet when I ended up laughing at myself for not understanding the content but enjoying this energetic, well-acted and well-written tale of crisis.
The Big Short (2015)
Biopic, Drama, Comedy, Crime Directed by: Adam McKay Written by: Charles Randolph (screenplay), Adam McKay (screenplay), Michael Lewis (book) Starred by: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt Runtime: 130 mins Rated R