Adam McKay’s “The Big Short” opens with a narration from Ryan Gosling, already in a similar aesthetic to that of Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” but blended with a delivery that we might have seen on NBC’s “The Office” when it was on television. As a matter of fact, it injects the sexy and seductive Margot Robbie in a bubble bath to “explain” the procedures of the housing market and the motivations of a character. Was McKay shooting for a spoof on an already brilliant comedy such as Scorsese’s? Off-putting in its awkward and choppy structure, there is a hollow and ill-advised attempt at drama at inopportune moments that just simply spell out reasons for a character’s bizarre behavior. On top of that, it’s overlong, and just a chore to sit through. The paint-by-numbers performances from its talented cast, mixed with its random 2000’s homage to music videos and famous talking heads, leaves a sour taste for us to stew upon for 130 minutes. Everything is just wrong.
“The Big Short” tells the story of four outsiders in the world of high-finance who predicted the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s decide to take on the big banks for their lack of foresight and greed.
Playing like a mockumentary, the script by Adam McKay and Charles Randolph struggles to find its footing early on. Breaking the fourth wall for a unique perspective on a familiar time in our history, I couldn’t help but feel annoyed, distracted, and just uninterested. Attempts at being “cheeky” by using real celebrities to explain aspects of the market to the audience becomes an Olympic triathlon in eye-rolling. An indulgent treatment of source material that feels like a patronizing master class. I don’t like to feel like a director and screenwriter are calling me “stupid.” I just don’t get Wall Street and the housing market. Shoot me.
Film Editor Hank Corwin uses quick cuts to give the impression of a fast-paced locomotive but instead puts a 100 pound weight on the viewer’s back and tells us to walk to the end of the obstacle course.
One of the best things about “The Big Short” is the minimal presence of the multi-talented Adepero Oduye. Her Oscar omission for “Pariah” still stings and I rejoice at the sight of her in any film. Steve Carell likely sits as best in show, but is held back immensely by his natural presence in film, not in the transporting way he showed us in last year’s “Foxcatcher.” Gosling, Christian Bale, and Brad Pitt are trekking through the film as if they’re attempting the cinematic equivalent to “Tough Mudder.” Just exhausted by the end but can say to themselves, “I did that.”
“The Big Short” had me halfheartedly watching both the movie and my watch to see when it’s over. Not exactly one of the redeeming gems of the year by any filmmaker. It comes up QUITE short. The bland nature of its construction is the equivalent of handing me a rib-eye steak with no seasoning, sides, or wine, and expect me to still be happy because its a steak. Do better.
“The Big Short” is distributed by Paramount Pictures.