The Big Short (2015)


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RB Score:  1/10

Given the subject matter of this film, I wanted to like it, in the worst way.  And in addition to its Best Picture nomination, Director McKay is up for an Oscar as well.   Hollywood pretentiousness aside, this steaming pile has no business being anywhere near awards discussions.

McKay’s talent is satire.  He did a good job with the likes of Anchorman, but he even then he could have used a better editor.  In The Big Short, he clearly wants to be taken more seriously, and he has certainly gotten that with multiple award nominations.  Yet, the movie does not succeed as either a comedy, or as a dramatic treatment.   Every once in a while you have to come right out and say that the Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.  The fact that so many critics are salivating over this garbage is proof that Mike Judge’s 2006 film, Idiocracy, is becoming reality.

The subject matter of this film is important and no less relevant today than it has been for the last couple of decades.  However, there are absolutely no revelations to be had from this script.  The film’s premise is that an oddball character, Dr. Michael Burry (who works in finance, not medicine) has figured out something about the mortgage market that no one else has.  McKay and company lost me right there, because it wasn’t that everyone else in America was somehow blind to what was going on.  It was more than nothing was done about it.  There was a lot of water-cooler conversation about adjustable rate mortgages, and the bundling of bad loans.  People were asking the questions about what would happen when the loans obviously couldn’t be repaid.   The real question, which certainly could be addressed in a movie, is why all these bad loans were allowed to happen. in the first place, especially following on the heels of other financial disasters.

Having arrived at the conclusions he did, Burry and the other characters and their intersecting associations, become fixated on how they can make money from an impending market collapse.   Yet we are supposed to sympathize with them.

Given the strong cast, there are moments of enjoyment to be had from the performances.  Pictured above, Ryan Gosling plays a slick Wall Street trader type,  Steve Carrel plays a fund manager in a perpetual state of outrage,  Brad Pitt is a semi-retired eccentric former financier, and Christian Bale is Dr. Burry.  Sadly, the good moments are overshadowed by excessive use of gimmickry, including multiple voiceovers, that cloud any sense of a coherent point of view; loud jarring cuts to the metal music that Dr. Burry listens to, presumably to help him concentrate, and the completely irritating use of cameo appearances where the person speaks directly to the audience to explain financial terms in the most condescending way possible.  If you need a naked blonde model in a bubble bath to explain finance to you, then this is your film.

By implying that the audience won’t understand that rather simple concepts used in this movie, unless they are introduced by a celebrity using bad analogies, the film insults the audience.  If you’re still not clear that you’re being insulted, why else does Margot Robbie tell you to fuck off after she’s done favoring you with her pearls of wisdom?

And how about that camera work.   All the out of focus quick pans, with the camera lurching around, made me seriously question whether the camera operator was on quaaludes.   I  had to close my eyes for parts of this movie to avoid throwing up.   Incredibly for all this fast pacing, the movie also dragged in places.

We’ve all seen dull movies, or slow paced movies.  Good movies can also be slow paced.  I have never seen a movie that was both dull and fast paced, with camera work that literally made me nauseous at several points.

The Big Short’s biggest fail is that it unintentionally undermines its own themes.   It purports to be a champion of the working class, of everyday folk.  Yet, the most sympathetic characters in this film are the entitled, one-dimensional lead characters who are about to make their fortunes, from the collapse of other peoples’ dreams, jobs, homes and lives.  Yes, these are the film’s good guys. While marketing itself as a hard-hitting Wall Street expose, it comes across instead as a weak Wolf of Wall Street wannabe.  I didn’t care for WWS but at least, it was a bit more watchable.  After seeing The Big Short, and again, literally trying not to be sick, I walked out of the theatre to my car thinking I had just wasted two hours of a too-short weekend.