The Big Short.
I was really excited about The Big Short, as it looked similar to Wolf of Wall Street, which I really liked. The cast was incredible and I was excited to see Adam McKay’s first foray into serious filmmaking (he is mostly known for Anchorman, Step Brothers, and Talladega Nights). Was this movie able to impress?
In the late 2000s, America experienced a housing market crisis. To be totally honest, I don’t really know what that means. I was a full-grown adult when it happened but these words were like gibberish to me. Luckily, this movie is made for me, as it intends to inform about (and commentate on) the housing market crisis, where big banks and sketchy mortgages led to many people losing their jobs and homes.
Michael Burry (Christian Bale) is a socially-impaired genius who notices that something is wrong with these mortgages and decides to start betting against the housing market, so he might get a huge payout when it eventually collapses. We also meet Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) who thinks there might be something behind the idea but needs a team to invest money. He approaches a team led by Mark Baum (Steve Carell), who invest in the idea but also begin searching out what’s really happening, which leads to a whole investigation of the way banks were running this business. We also have Brad Pitt in a minimal role as a former banker who helps these two young guys break into the game and take advantage of this bubble about to burst.
For this cast of four huge names, I’m mostly split on their success. Gosling is enjoyable but mostly used as a narrator to explain things to us. Pitt isn’t really a major player and I don’t think he’s even in a scene with the other big dogs. But that leaves Bale and Carell. They both absolutely nail it here. After Foxcatcher last year, I was hoping Carell would continue doing serious movies and this one is enough of a serious movie to count. He’s funny in the way that he acts and reacts but it’s not the comedy he’s usually known for.
And Bale… I doubt he’ll get nominated for best actor but he should definitely be in the conversation. He plays a guy who doesn’t understand social norms but understands numbers, so most of his scenes involve him trying to explain to common folk how this works and he doesn’t understand why people are upset. He has a lot of scenes where he’s solo, like sending emails or drumming to reduce stress. He nails it though, in little ways that tell you a lot about his life.
Here’s something that worked mostly but is also the biggest problem with the film, when it didn’t work.
Adam McKay did a great job with his first semi-serious film but it felt like he went to 150% when it wasn’t necessary. There’s some weird decisions, such as a constant use of clips and pictures from the late 2000s to remind you of the time we’re in (or sometimes to show the passage of time). These clips sometimes make sense but are also sometimes extremely alienating. There’s also a unique take on the film, likely from the script, where our characters break the fourth wall and talk to the viewer. Ryan Gosling, as our narrator, does this most often, but almost every other character does it as well. Sometimes, it’s hilarious, other times it is cringeworthy. On the whole, the movie is really engaging but this style takes you some time to get into and some people won’t like it at all.
What doesn’t work?
As I just said, the creative stylization can be a deterrent. How you fall on that decision will make or break your enjoyment of this movie.
I also had a problem with the editing in this film. Good editing means you never notice it. Here, I noticed it all the time. People weren’t in the same place. A girl in a bathtub picks up her champagne glass twice by accident. Bale’s character reads an email that a second later shows up as unread on his screen. Weird little things that had me do a double take and took me out of the experience.
Also, it kind of bothers me that there’s really no women in the movie, aside from a few cameos and a few unnamed characters to move the plot forward. With a true story, it might’ve been difficult to rectify this.
I doubt The Big Short gets any nominations for Best Picture, as the stylization will divide the viewers’ opinions. Christian Bale and Steve Carell, though, might get nominations but I doubt they’d get wins. I really enjoyed the style for the most part and found the movie really engaging and informational. If this issue sounds interesting, definitely give it a try. This all-star cast won’t disappoint and you likely will enjoy yourself a lot.