It’s funny because it’s true. This is the formula director Adam McKay has successfully used for countless comedy classics like “Anchorman”, “Talledega Nights” and “Stepbrothers” just to name a few. McKay is a near genius at creating outrageous characters and putting them in near equally outrageous situations that the audience can laugh along with. However with his latest film “The Big Short”, McKay is taking the opposite route with a film that will make audiences angry because it is in fact true.
The movie is based on an adaptation of author Michael Lewis’ bestselling book “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine” which chronicles a chain of events that led to the 2008 financial crisis and key characters that were helpless to stop it and others that quite literally made off like bank bandits.
While it can be difficult to adapt a non-fiction book into a mainstream movie Lewis has proven his writing style can successfully make the jump from print to the big screen as shown by the success of the “Moneyball” which was directed by Bennett Miller and was nominated for six Oscars. Perhaps inspired by its success McKay chose to take a dramatic turn from his normal comedic fare and manages to produce yet another engaging and thoroughly entertaining adaption of the true events that led to the 2008 financial meltdown.
Part of the reason the movie “Moneyball” was so successful (despite having a script that endured multiple rewrites) is that it takes a simplified and condensed approach to the broad narration of the book it’s based on and focuses in directly on the essential characters and important plot points. McKay does a credible job of following a similar formula and the result is a script that is fast paced and hard hitting. Perhaps McKay’s biggest success is simply the star studded cast that he was able to attract with promises of similar Oscar nominations.
Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carrell and Brad Pitt headline an all star cast that will surely gain the interest of audiences but it’s the true and shocking plotline of the unabashed corruption and greed that will maintain that interest. The story follows the discovery by stockbroker Michael Burry (Bale) who is an idiot savant when it comes to crunching numbers and looking for trends. What he finds is a fraudulent system set up by banks that are holding thousands of subprime loans that are creating a bubble that is literally about to burst. Burry is savvy enough to see what is about to happen and decides to take advantage of the situation by essentially betting against the housing market.
This sort of daredevil investing attracts the attention of a smug, foul mouthed banker Jared Vennett (Gosling) who along with hedge funder Mark Baum (Carell) goes into the business of profiting from the impending catastrophe by trying to short the market. While they are soberly reminded at times by hipster guru Ben Rickert (Pitt) that millions of people will lose their homes and hard earned money its hard at first for them (and the audience) to not want to revel in their good fortune by being able to pull a fast one on the big banks.
McKay allows the audience to at first feel the exhilaration of the little guys taking out the big boys but then does a quick and admirable u-turn into stating the obvious that the fraud being committed by big banks and financial firms ultimately would only benefit a select few while destroying the lives of millions of hard working folks who didn’t know any better and couldn’t afford to weather the storm that was insidiously sent their way by the fat cats of Wall Street.
What starts off as a Wall Street version of “Ocean’s Eleven” where we are rooting for the underdogs to take out the big bad rich guys eventually turns to a stark reality that what is unfolding on the screen is not fiction but fact and the people being ripped off are not only real but in many cases the very same people who will go and see this movie. The end result is a film that will leave you bitter and disgusted at the events portrayed and even worse will leave you feeling helpless to the power of those who have it. There is nothing funny about “The Big Short” but therein lies the reason people should go see it because the truth will make you angry.