Though a fairly serious work of non-fiction, the film adaptation of The Big Short has put a comic spin on the narrative under the capable hands of Adam Mackay – director of such blockbuster hits as Anchorman and Stepbrothers. Its ostensibly drier subject matter also puts it in line with the likes of Moneyball and Wolf of Wall Street, both of which deal with the power – and corruption – of money.
Steve Carrell goes full throttle
The Big Short's cast of seasoned comedians do deliver. Steve Carrell is heart-rending as Mark Baum, the most stressed out man on Wall Street: he comes to the screen with a full-throttle performance that also manages to be nuanced and emotional. Christian Bale as Michael Burry, the first man to predict the financial apocalypse, is amusingly awkward and the most watchable of the four, and Ryan Gosling, though somewhat distracting with his fake tan and curly hair, takes an engaging turn as the arrogant mercenary Jared Vennett.
The only one of The Big Short's leading men that fails to bring anything to his role is Brad Pitt, who makes a few brief appearances as eccentric seasoned ex-banker Ben Rickert: bland and unengaging as whizz kid-turned-self-sufficient vegan, but he's more than propped up by his counterparts.
An intelligent examination of both sides of the crisis
Unlike The Wolf of Wall Street, which fails to show the victims of the financial crash and spends too much time glamourising the lifestyle it depicts, The Big Short closely explores the tragedy of the financial crash through its effects on the poorest individuals.
Yet The Big Short also feels woefully lacking in female characters. Whilst the world it depicts is, in many respects, a man's one, Michael Lewis' original book went some way to suggesting that one of the key players in predicting the fall of Bear Stearns and the financial crash as a whole was a woman, Meredith Whitney: a figure strikingly absent from McKay's film.
Where women do appear, they are sex workers taking out excessive loans to fuel greedy lifestyles, or two-dimensional girlfriend figures, like Marisa Tomei as Baum's long-suffering wife. One ill-judged moment also sees Margot Robbie drinking champagne in a bathtub while she explains subprime mortgages to the ignorant viewer.
Surprisingly funny and poignant
Alongside the four male leads, the film also plays host to Max Greenfield – the freakishly uptight ladies’ man in hit US sitcom New Girl – and Karen Gillan, the Doctor’s assistant in Doctor Who. Fans of Anchorman and Stepbrothers will no doubt be interested in Adam McKay's unlikely foray into the world of financial dramedy: not as ham or slapstick as we might have expected, The Big Short is intelligent, sharp and very funny throughout.
Whilst not without flaws, and at times somewhat patronising of its audience, the film boasts zippy, unconventional editing and highly engaged performances. Watch it back-to-back with 2010's documentary Inside Job for a blow-by-blow retrospective on the financial crash.
Thought-provoking and fully aware of its subject's most tragic repercussions, The Big Short is a surprisingly exuberant, intelligent film from a director best known for more brusque, laddish humour. Definitely worth a watch.
The Big Short heads outdoors:
The Big Short is being screened in London parks this summer as part of Luna Cinema's open-air film programme – book your tickets now!
|What||The Big Short film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
22 Jan 16 – 31 Mar 16, 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
|Price||£ determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here to go to the film's IMDB page|