Cinematic Releases: The Big Short

We're a couple weeks behind on this one, so here it goes......

Looks like the 2006
Gordon Gecko line is now
available at Macy's!
Shut up and sit down.  This would be the perfect opportunity for a political rant about American Anti-intellectualism and our willful blindness towards the boring and mundane, but frankly, you’d be far better off just going to see The Big Short.  In it you’ll find all of the frustration and vitriol you can possibly stomach, stated far more eloquently than I ever could.  Despite the film’s obvious anger towards the subject matter in question, The Big Short somehow manages to be one of the funniest and most important movies in recent years.

Director Adam McKay and screenwriter Charles Randolph put on a clinic in storytelling.  This isn’t an exaggeration.  Let’s be frank – the banking industry is boring.  In fact, that’s the theme of Ryan Gosling’s fourth-wall breaking opening monologue.  And yet, The Big Short manages to be tense, exciting, and raucously funny.  It does so by extolling one simple virtue – honesty.  Most of the film’s funniest moments are anti-jokes, you’ll guffaw at the sheer absurdity of it all, telling yourself that this story can’t possibly be true.  The movie even lets you know when it’s not being completely honest with you, when the truth didn’t quite make for good storytelling.  Does that mean the rest of the story we’re shown is completely honest?  Perhaps not, but it does a fantastic job of making the film feel genuine.
Looks like Steve Carrell plays
yet another guy with anger
issues and a bad hairpiece.
What range!!!
Some of the other storytelling elements may be a bit more divisive, however.  The fourth-wall breaking monologues and glances to the camera are pretty pervasive throughout, but definitely fit the tone of the film.  Never quite a blood-chilling as Kevin Spacey’s moments in House of Cards, but a similar effect is undoubtedly achieved.  Some may find these moments distracting or overused, but it’s difficult to argue against their efficacy.  Similarly questionable, the movie uses several celebrities and personalities, playing themselves, to explain the intricacies of the mortgage securities world.  Some might find it jarring, but it just kind of works in the context of the film.  It’s funny, it’s well-reasoned, and it gets a complicated point across.  Moments like this give the movie the enjoyable, digestible value that will likely make it a part of numerous college curricula on finance, ethics, and filmmaking.

Despite its definite digestibility, The Big Short’s largest shortcoming, sadly, is that it’s probably a bit too smart for everyone.  It does an absolutely impeccable job at making a boring topic interesting, but if you are the type of movie-goer that finds yourself asking questions and struggling to keep up with a complicated narrative, The Big Short might be frustrating for you for all the wrong reasons.  That being said, every eighteen-year-old with a credit card needs to see this movie.

Finally, the film’s ensemble cast provide universally solid performances.  You know you’ve got a well-acted movie when the likes of Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, and Steve Carrell set the bar and the rest of the cast more than adequately rise to the occasion.  Gosling is perfectly slimy and Finn Witrock (American Horror Story) continues to rise above the rest of Young Hollywood.  The Big Short is a perfect period piece from the ‘00s, for better or for worse, and will likely remain one of the most important and funny movies of the decade.


-Patrick B. McDonald