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Movie Review: “The Big Short”

Dec 222015
 By , December 22, 2015

The Big Short

“The Big Short” – a film review by Gary Chew

Communicating is not one of the longer suits of banks, insurance companies and other businesses in the business of dollar making … unless of course such an institution is communicating to a client that he or she has a payment due, or certain fees have been incurred for services rendered by the institution. Thus The Big Short, directed by Adam McKay, pulls out all stops to define the BS financial nomenclature held dearly by high finance experts so we lay people can safely navigate the hoops of confusion and obfuscation connected with the home mortgage collapse of 2008.

The Big ShortBoth the style and tone of The Big Short denote eccentricity, shallow hipness and flippancy among all its characters. Some of them even break character and direct a monologue straight at the audience to make all moneymaker jargon a little less dense for us on the patron side of the teller’s window.

And, as so many movies are wont to do now, the story is based on actual events involving real people. (I think most of us recall the bubble bursting.) A concise summing up of who, what, when, where and why appears before the closing credits to give the latest skinny possible on the principle participants in this caper comedy pregnant with people who worship the dollar more than anything else.

Although Short might be a movie mostly for males, females ought to take a look at the cast: Brad Pitt,  Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Christian Bale and other gentlemen who look like they might model new suits at Macy’s. Basically, it’s an ensemble cast with Carell and Bale shining with the idiosyncrasies the script has bestowed on them. Pitt is rather on with a “Redford” approach in his moderately-sized role and Gosling might be the biggest, uh … (better not use that term) … jerk in this coterie of financial wizards; some of whom could be more accurately referred to as lizards.

The Big ShortGraphics play an important part for getting it all clear. Characters’ names flash on the screen so you’ll know them when they turn up in later scenes wearing those unfamiliar faces of theirs.

Obscure words relating to all sorts of financial trysting are dutifully defined with terms plastered on the screen. Even a complicated scene is put into play to describe — with building blocks already – how the housing bubble came to be. It made me get it … sort of.

What’s best about The Big Short is that the picture was made. Making the mumbo jumbo bucks lingo more accessible is a genuine service to anyone who sees it. A shout out Mr. Pitt. He was one of the producers.

Personally, I was not so taken with Short. (Oh yes, I forgot to tell you: the word “short” means that one is using money to bet against some financial thing striving to prove out profitable and not fail.) It’s difficult to have deep sympathy for money-mad dudes, even if they’re glib, and all Type A-ish … even with a few members of the gang being really pretty honest about what they do for a living. All seem to be discontented in their greenback milieu where it should be that the world is pretty much on a string for them pushing forward to their next million.

One more thought: all the financial institutions got to have their actual brands used in the film, though I’m not sure if these businesses had to pay for product placement. Seems like a mega biz would pay the producers to not use the authentic brands of a Wall Street concern and like venues, since the money folks, after all, were bailed out by American taxpayers. But I am positive these guys aren’t playing any more games with other people’s money now. Dreaming on till the next review, I thank you for reading this one.

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Gary Chew was a classical music host, programmer and producer on Capital Public Radio’s KXPR 88.9FM, Sacramento for 18 years. He retired in January 2007. Read more about Gary's long and storied career here.

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