‘The Big Short’
Director: Adam McKay
Stars: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling
3 (out of 5) Globes
To the plebe who’s bad at money, the hedge fund chatter that teems from every pore of “The Big Short” is “Primer”-level impenetrable. Based on Michael Lewis’ bone-chilling bestseller, Adam McKay’s seriocomic nightmare tries to explain to the layman the greedy, moronic forces that caused the 2008 economic catastrophe. It even stops a few times so that celebrities can break it down for us like we’re stupid: Margot Robbie talks subprime loans in a bathtub, and Anthony Bourdain and Selena Gomez define CDOs and synthetic CDOs, respectively.
But most of the time it lets smart people talk (or more often shout) concentrated gobbledygook, motormouthing their way to the apocalypse. At least some of them are the good(ish) guys. Our heroes are insiders who realize, shortly before the collapse, that the housing market is ready to implode. Some of them have famous faces, sometimes with bad wigs. Christian Bale is hedge fund dude Michael Burry and Steve Carell money manager Mark Baum (based on Steve Eisman), while a retired, health nut trader is played by no less than producer Brad Pitt, shaggy and looking very Anders Holm.
If you’re often lost, then “The Big Short” is doing its job. As Ryan Gosling’s douchey yet ethical trader (and our part-time guide) Jared Vennett explains, lenders use meaningless jargon and acronyms to confuse their prey, driving them to thoughtlessly sign up for loans that will make their predators disgustingly rich. If “The Big Short” doesn’t always make sense of the particulars, it does hip one to the bigger picture, which is that a swarm of sociopaths created a rickety system that only makes sense to them. At one point we meet two young brokers who giggle as they talk about peddling mortgages to poor people and immigrants who could never make their payments. “They’re not confessing,” observes one character. “They’re bragging.”