Directed by Adam McKay
I’m not a fan of Adam McKay’s writing, in a comedic sense. His comedies such as Step Brothers seemed to go right over my head, and when I read that he was tackling an important subject such as the financial crisis of 2008, I was skeptical. I don’t like his brand of humour, for the most part, and I had trouble imagining a movie that is funny while covering the worst economic collapse since The Great Depression.
There is a lot of jargon associated with the world of economics, and it is there for a reason. As one of the character states in one of numerous breaks of the fourth wall, the jargon is intentional, it is there to confuse, to trick, to leave us, the people, stupid. Hell, we have people handle our taxes or manage our stocks, such is the power of the jargon of a different world.
I didn’t enjoy the constant breaking of the fourth wall; I think it is hard to do it well, and here it isn’t terrible, but it isn’t great either. Having the film randomly cut to Margot Robbie in a bubble-bath explaining the meaning of some jargon couldn’t have felt more out of place if it tried. Constantly, this movie is trying to educate. I’ll be honest, I left the cinema with no more knowledge than I went in with. I don’t even know what a ‘short’ is, and the word is in the bloody title!
I guess the writers were faced with two options: the path they chose, which was to explain as much as possible, while breaking the fourth wall as often as needed, or a more risky avenue of not explaining the terms, or further still, constructing a movie about these events that don’t need the jargon in the first place. 99 Homes covered similar issues and didn’t need to explain itself constantly.
If this film had a little less jargon and ditched the constant explanations for financial jargon, I’d have enjoyed the movie more than I did. Margot Robbie in a bubble-bath isn’t exactly the best way to teach someone anything, let alone finance, and consequently I found myself tuning out. I have no idea what any of the jargon means, but the movie flows well enough that it is quite easy to figure out what is bad, what is good, and the consequences for their actions.
This flow is why I think they could have ditched the explanations: they seemed to add nothing but extra run-time, and more than once cut away from the movie entirely, one time to have a celebrity chef explain something. Huh? Am I missing something here? Captions explaining terms I can understand, but a total cut to characters not in the movie at all is extremely jarring and for the most part ineffective.
The film itself does a good job of following the different people who were involved in predicting the financial crisis, putting themselves in a position to profit if they are correct. But if they are correct, millions will lose jobs. It is an interesting moral decision, but once each character gets started, they cannot stop.
Christian Bale as Michael Burry was easily the best performance of the movie, and one of Bale’s better efforts too. He plays the eccentric Burry well, who has obvious high-functioning autism tendencies as well as a taste for heavy metal. Steve Carrell also stands out as Mark Baum, and as the movie moves forward it becomes clearer to him what will happen to the rest of the country. Near the end he launches into a speech about the corrupt and criminal tendencies of the Federal Reserve Bank, but for all the passion in his speech, and he may well be speaking from the heart, he will profit, and almost everyone other person will be worse off. That is the story for all the characters involved in their own separate operations.
So, how does one bet against the housing market? I don’t know, and I don’t really care. What I do know is that this movie is easy to absorb without all the annoying cameos, and each character followed was interesting. Especially Bale as Michael Burry, but all the men involved had their own demenour, their own personality. This is what drives the movie forward: the characters, and the acting that brings them to life. If this film had a cast of bland characters, the best cast imaginable couldn’t have saved it. Thankfully the characters are written with purpose, giving us an entertaining look into those who predicted that the economy would collapse. I would personally recommend 99 Homes for a much, much more interesting story that revolves around the same economic crisis. The Big Short isn’t so much a story as it is a fictional documentary.
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