I was 18 when the financial crisis of 2007-2008 happened. While I knew the magnitude of the situation, I couldn’t fully grasp it. Years later, seeing it played out on the screen; I now know what I was angry about. Hearing the audience speak to one another after leaving the advance screening of the film, I think this film will spark that anger in many others all over again.
That’s the magic of 'The Big Short'…the film shows you just how bad the American public was played but it does so with a giant smile on its face.
"Tell me the difference between stupid and illegal and I'll have my wife's brother arrested." - Jared Vennett
Following ‘The Blind Side’ and ‘Moneyball’, ‘The Big Short’ is the third film adaptation of a Michael Lewis book. The written work of Lewis has proven to be gold in Hollywood. In his 13th book, Michael Lewis once again used reality to craft together a fact-filled & hard-hitting story. The story of 4 outsiders trying to warn the banks about the housing bubble spent 28 weeks as the top selling non-fiction book on The New York Times list in 2010.
The book was a winner at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights awards; an award given to anyone whose concern is the well being of the poor and powerless. Michael Lewis truly lives that life. All of his work is centered on the struggles we face as humans and how we can change the negatives; ‘The Big Short’ is no different & the film adaption keeps that same spirit alive.
I can already see his most recent book about Wall Street titled “Flash Boys” becoming another successful film adaption. The newest book from Michael Lewis already launched an F.B.I investigation into high frequency trading so his written work continues to make impacts in society & pop culture.
Adam McKay is a known comedic director with films like ‘Anchorman’ and 2008’s ‘Step Brothers’. All of his experience in comedy and no one ever thought McKay would take such a serious turn but ‘The Big Short’ is a step in a wonderful direction for Adam McKay. The film is genuinely funny without sacrificing the mature and real story. It doesn’t stop and pause for jokes; it lets them enhance the most insane moments in the film.
What surprised me the most is how well Adam McKay brought over elements from his comedic work over to this film. ‘The Big Short’ has insanely quotable moments, something his comedy films are known for. Steve Carell, like in Anchorman, has some of the best laugh out loud quotes in the film. Adam McKay knows how to bring the best out of the funny man & ‘The Big Short’ is just another example of it.
As anyone would, I wasn’t too sure on Adam McKay’s turn for the dramatic but I believe this is a great turning point for his career. He should work more to blend the lines of drama and comedy like he did with this film; successful hybrids like this are hard to find but I think critics, fans, and the Golden Globes all agree that Adam McKay made ‘The Big Short’ as great as it is.
One of the most notable things about ‘The Big Short’ is how distinct the filmmaking is. Edited in a way that would make your head spin & cinematography that goes from documentary style to cine-style seamlessly, a dramedy like this isn’t always so lucky to have such experimental filmmaking behind it. I would never think a film about finance could look as gritty as one of the ‘Bourne’ movies
The cinematographer Barry Ackroyd, best known for 'The Hurt Locker', gave me the feeling that we were right in the room during all these business meetings. Not being afraid to use a zoom like a documentary would, the camera work was noticeable & memorable for sure. He also heavily uses stock footage, still images, and irrelevant pop culture moments to transition between scenes.
Another very interesting choice in the filmmaking was the use of fourth wall breaking moments. Screenwriters Adam McKay and Charles Randolph really took a chance with their choice but it really worked out. From the jump, Ryan Gosling’s Jared Vennett sets up the tone of the film and it doesn’t stop until celebrity chefs & pop stars give you all the mundane details of finance.
Christian Bale. Brad Pitt. Steve Carell. Ryan Gosling.
Some of the biggest names in the industry came together for a film that many said couldn’t be pulled off. While the gentlemen all share the screen, the real shining stars of the piece are Steve Carell & Christian Bale. Both characters have the same goal in mind but the two performances couldn’t be anymore different. Steve Carell is the foul-mouth hothead, while Bale plays a more demure character. The juxtaposition from the actors offer up some of the more poignant moments but also some of the most hilarious.
Ryan Gosling plays the role of the narrator; he guides us through the story while still being an active character in the film. He sets the tone quickly in a film that breaks the fourth wall quite a few times. Producer Brad Pitt is only in the film for a small supporting role but he really packs a punch when he comes on screen. The 51-year-old actor has some serious screen presence; the little time he is in the film, he brings a lot to the table.
I was surprised by how important Finn Wittrock was to the film’s story. While he’s not advertised nearly as much as Pitt or Gosling, he has far more screen time than both men. He also plays heavily into the plot of the film but remains disconnected from all the main actors expect Pitt.
Melissa Leo, Marissa Tomei, Karen Gillian, Max Greenfield, and Selena Gomez are other named performers who pop up during the film. While there are many names to drop, I have to say that Margot Robbie portraying herself explaining subprime mortgages while she sitting in a bathtub sipping champagne is the best cameo during the entire film. If that doesn’t sell you on the film, not much else will.
Millions of people lost their homes in 2008. Corrupt business men allowed it to happen while they filled their pockets. A group of outsiders saw what was happening and tried to warn others but when they couldn’t warn them, they decided to bet against them. All of this truth was documented in the Michael Lewis book & in this Adam McKay film.
While names & a convenient story about finding paperwork on a coffee table were changed for dramatic purposes, 'The Big Short' doesn’t hold back when dealing with the reality of the horrible financial situation the world was in.
One of the most important moments of the film for me was seeing how clueless the average American was. During a time when Steve Carrel’s character Mark Baum and his team go to research what exactly is happening to the housing market, they stumble upon a father who’s living in a home that he’s about to lose. The man has no idea his landlord hasn’t been paying the mortgage & he fears for his family’s security. We later see him living out of his car with his entire family. Moments like that take a break from the comedy and really drive home the fucked up reality that was the housing financial crisis.
When asked for a description of the film, all I could say was “truly an eye-opener”.
The Big Short premieres in the USA on December 23rd, 2015.