The Big Short
Charles Randolph, Adam McKay (Book by Michael Lewis)
Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Tracy Letts, Marisa Tomei, Adepero Oduye, Rafe Spall, Hamish Linklater, Jeremy Strong, John Magaro, Finn Wittrock, Brad Pitt, Melissa Leo, Karen Gillan
R for pervasive language and some sexuality/nudity
Buy on DVD/Blu-ray
How do you make a comedy about the subprime mortgage crisis that nearly destroyed the world’s economy? Not very easily as Anchorman director Adam McKay can attest. The Big Short is funny in places, but the absurdity of the situation is more dire than humorous.
Explaining the complexities of the narrative falls to the likes of Margot Robbie, Anthony Bourdain, and Selena Gomez, three in a long series of fourth wall-breaking moments that provide the major framing device for the film. The attempt here is to provide the details of the events leading to the Great Recession while not boring the audience. It’s a challenging concept that never quite finds its footing with satire that feels just as jarring as having a cast member try and explain it to them.
The parade of prominent actors that wind their way through this film are all solid, but they make for some haphazard transitions and while the screenplay means to keep things as simple as possible, the interruption to the film’s flow makes the whole movie feel forced rather than natural
With that said, McKay’s screenplay is impeccably researched and while it reduces the concepts as capably as it can, they are still rather complex, which itself speaks to the tragic situation that allowed smart men to manipulate the system to their advantage and build the house of cards that would eventually come crumbling down. Steve Carell’s Mark Daub is meant to act as the audience surrogate, unable to stop the inevitable collapse he sees coming. His purpose in the film is obvious, but how the film ultimately gets the viewer there is forced and frustrating at times.
Those combined challenge of getting something so incredibly complex to make sense to the average audience member is a difficult task. McKay’s film doesn’t quite get everyone there, which only hinders his intentions. While there will be some who follow the events well and reach the end at precisely the moment McKay desires and with just the right take on the material, there will be many others who will have gotten lost early on and find themselves flustered and foiled by the film’s conclusion, having wished for something better, but not having found it.
The Big Short is a modestly engaging and thought-provoking film that doesn’t quite find the suitable rhythm it needs to keep the audience engaged and concerned about the problems it presents. This is the story of men who made a great deal of profit by betting on the market to fail. We the audience ultimately identify more figuratively with Mark Daub, hoping that we ultimately get the film we’ve been promised, but feeling let down because the whole feels cluttered and uneven at inopportune moments.
September 21, 2020