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The Big Short

Oh, I’ve read a few highly touted books to try to keep somewhat up to speed, but I’m not exactly razor-sharp when it comes to the world of finance. I guess I could be–but I just don’t want to be. My eyes glaze over if I listen to too much of that stuff. Luckily, I’ve got a bunch of family members who ARE well-versed in all things monetary. I’m going to keep concentrating on the arts, and THEY can keep me alert me when I need to move some cash. It’s my feeling that a lot of folks are like this. At the very least, I’m far from alone. And it’s apparent that the makers of the terrific new film, “The Big Short” are aware of the people like me. Why else include celebrity cameos from stars as diverse as movie bombshell Margot Robbie, renowned chef Anthony Bourdain, and pop star Selena Gomez to gently explain the intricate currency details to the audience. It’s an inspired device. And, of course, the perpetrators of the financial meltdown were obviously recognizing that lack of financial aptitude in people too. They counted on them, in fact. And then stole their damn futures.

The 2008 global financial meltdown was hardly a complete surprise to everyone. Eccentric hedge fund manager Michael Burry ( a sharp Christian Bale) saw that the housing bubble would burst, and tries to let people know while also securing his profit margin by making adjustments based on his predictions. When Mark Baum (a dynamite Steve Carell), another unusual hedge funder, is alerted to the issue, he discovers that the scale of corruption and fraud within the financial community is so vast, that it will make the eventual crash catastrophic. Soon, young investors Charlie Geller (solid John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (ditto Finn Wittrock) are enlisting retired banking wiz, Ben Rickert (a perfect Brad Pitt) to help them profit from the oncoming situation. But are the inexperienced bankers callous enough, to avoid alerting the masses, while they bask in the immense profits of making the right moves ahead of the collapse?

Adam McKay, the director and co-screenwriter (along with Charles Randolph, based on the Michael Lewis book of the same name), is mostly identified with a number of Will Ferrell comedies. But he’s up to the task of the step up in class here–“The Big Short” is one of the best films of 2015. It’s wonderfully paced and admirably cohesive. It’s occasionally humorous, and then eventually devastating. I cried at the thought of these average people losing everything they owned, after being manipulated by the system. And all because they weren’t savvy enough. It’s not supposed to be that way. But people are cruel and nasty and in it for themselves. Certainly not all of the time–but a lot of the time. It’s disgusting and dispiriting to watch a family go from a new home–to living out of their car.

This exceptional film also features very good performances from Ryan Gosling, Hamish Linklater, Marisa Tomei, and Melissa Leo. But the standout is Mr. Carell. For all the talk about his performance (and prosthetic nose) in last year’s “Foxcatcher” (a Best Actor Oscar nom), this is the one he deserves the attention for. And no one seems more destroyed than his Mark Baum character, at the level and depravity of the greed displayed when this whole scene went down. He’s incredible–and so is the movie.

Grade:  A

next review up: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

 

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