February 8, 2016

The Big Short

Adam McKay, 2015
Adam McKay’s The Big Short is a bunch of things. It's explanative, it’s sobering, and it’s thorough. But its also erratic and a bit messy as well. But it still works. Maybe it’s because Mckay, who is normally more focused on making more goofy comedic movies, is able to channel some of that silly energy into the film. Because it’s definitely a funny movie. Maybe its because of the ensemble cast - with really superb performances by Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale and Steve Carrell. Gosling brings an energy to his Jared Vennett character that reminds you of the cockiness of his Jacob character in Crazy Stupid Love. Jared is certainly a cocky guy, but also a funny cocky guy. His quick wit is able to draw laughter from people on the other side of the room who are feeling screwed over by him. Bale, who plays genius money manager / on-the-spectrum Michael Burry, is completely immersed in his role as usual. Something different for him, playing a guy who rarely wears shoes and locks himself in an office with heavy metal blaring. But he pulls it off, because he always seems to pull everything off. Carrel is someone who clearly is in a different chapter of his career. A chapter in which he wants to take more bold roles in more dramatic environments. The days of waxing his chest and screaming are behind him, as funny as those days were. He continues to show that he has a lot more to offer. His Mark Baum character is fueled by a manic myopic energy, a workaholic that is constantly pressing the gas pedal hard. He is grieving over the loss of his brother, attempting to right many wrong things on Wall Street - where there are many wrong things that may never be right.

McKay is doing a lot of interesting things with this film. The constant injection of clips of Americana. Music videos, news footage. It blends real life with grand fantasy, trying to blur the lines between the two. The real life vs. fantasy is something evident in the film. Lots of people taking advantage of a system with a real short-sight. Not really worried about the ramifications, or the domino effect that it may have. The ones that are truly aware of the effect it will have feel insulated from the consequences. Clearly the most frustrating aspect of the mortgage crisis to begin with, the fact that the higher-ups on Wall Street weren’t threatened that they would face any real prosecution. Worstly, they would be bailed out at the expense of the average American taxpayer. The Big Short is really similar to The Wolf of Wall Street in that sense. This sort of greedy carpe diem. The subconscious thought that at some point the party is going to come to an end. But who cares, everyone is making money today. That sort of mindset. Both stories play with themes of taking advantage of loopholes in a currently unregulated environment. When the one loophole is closed, another one will likely exist and be penetrated.

The American mortgage crisis was a complicated one, with a lot of trade-lingo and layers of confusion. The Big Short attempts to boil it down and succeeds in a lot of ways. It certainly puts you in the action, makes you a part of the conference room conversations, and revives an inner frustration that you haven’t felt since 2008.

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