Friday, 18 December 2015

The Big Short

The Big Short
Directed by Adam McKay
Starring: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Finn Wittrock

2008 saw the crash of the housing market in the USA. Almost no one saw it coming. The only people who did were a few "weirdos and outcasts" who saw the signs and decided to bet against the big banks.

So I actually got tickets to an Advance Screening of this in Toronto. It was my very first advance screening and it was a lot of fun to see this much before the rest of the country.

I'm going to tell you, I was 16 when the 2008 Housing Market crashed. As well, I live in Canada where the housing market didn't actually crash, but we were definitely affected by the crash in the US. I know extraordinarily little about any of this. So while the film did try to do it's best to explain some things, some of it still did go over my head. I'm just throwing that information out there now since it will affect my review and I find my opinion a little less reliable because of it.

The Big Short is not really a movie you'd expect when it's about the housing and credit bubble of the mid-2000s. This movie is purely rock-and-roll, sardonic and smug. It is continually bouncing back and forth between narrative and music videos, has lots of voice over and most of it's characters find themselves breaking the 4th wall and addressing the audience mid-scene. The best words I can really use to describe this movie is sardonic and smug. And I don't necessarily mean this in a bad way. The Big Short takes a unique approach in which it's constantly cracking jokes, the narrator explaining how cool he is, and even using celebrities to illustrate and explain various different complicated and legal terms. It even has a character breaking the 4th wall to admit that the scene isn't 100% accurate and explained how it actually came about. Smug, eh?

I can't help but admire the tone Adam McKay (director of Will Ferrell bro-comedies like Anchorman) uses here. However, this is a movie that seems to stick the landings about 75% of the time. This movie had a lot of potential and I think with a bit tighter editing, this film could've been magic. However, this film was still a fun ride, even if it was slightly confusing and didn't always make sense to the uneducated me.

The truly best thing this movie has going for it is its all-star cast. I mean, Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell and Christian Bale all in one movie together? Yes please! And having them altogether did not disappoint. Bale plays Michael Burry, a doctor who decided to quit medicine and become a money manager. He's the first to spot the signs of the crash and decides to make bets against the banks. Gosling plays Jared Vennett, a Deutsche bank high-up who catches wind of these swaps and decides to get in on it. Via a wrong number, Mark Baum (played by Carell) and his independent firm also catch wind and decide to become investors after doing some investigation. Honestly, it was hard to keep straight what exactly everyone's position and job was, but some other people get involved in Vennett's investments and they all seem to be the only ones.

You could tell the cast was having a lot of fun, and they all worked so well together. The standouts for me, specifically, were Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling. Carell was once again playing a different character that we haven't really seen from him before. He's a Wall Street maniac who loves/hates his job and is obsessed with what he does. Honestly, Carell was just kind of angry all the time and it was really fun to watch! Ryan Gosling played our narrator and the arrogant bank worker who gets Carell and co. in on the investments of a lifetime. Gosling plays a similar character to the one he played in Crazy, Stupid, Love a few years back, which is great because he 100% nailed this role. I love watching Gosling play slick and arrogant. He was truly hilarious in his role and the movie could've used more of him!

Like I mentioned, I felt the movie could've used a bit of a tighter edit. There were a lot of freeze-frames on characters faces, which started to get old, quickly. And there were lots of random shots of photos that somewhat related but I felt were kind of unnecessary. Overall, the Big Short is a fun movie and is actually really quite funny (I thought it was actually funnier than Anchorman, but then again I'm not really an Anchorman fan at all). The movie seemed to walk a delicate line between the serious matter at hand but also finding the comedy in it. Again, it stuck the landings of this about 75% of the time. The movie was so close to being fantastic, but it just didn't quite get there. And considering all the talent involved, it's a bit of a shame. However, it's still a fun ride and one that helped educate me on the crisis I was so naive to.


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