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The Big Short (2015)

by The Movie Diorama

The Big Short triggers a crisis of its own by treating its audience like children. Ladies and gentlemen, I bestow upon you the most frustrating film to ever exist in our plane of reality. You ready for more controversy? I don’t like The Big Short. It is a purposefully unconventional exercise in butchering a perfectly solid film through self-obsessed patronisation. A felicitous topic that ages more flavorous than a cheap bottle of Chambord with every passing year, yet presented in the most condescending manner available. Honestly, I’m feeling my veins on my forehead right now. Adam McKay, man. Not impressed. Depicting the financial crisis of ‘08, three concurrent narratives demonstrate the fraudulent behaviour of banking corporations and mortgage brokers that forced the inception of the “housing bubble”.

But don’t let me bore you with this drivel, here’s grime legend Skepta to offer an explanation. Forget about that though. The real issue here is the packaging of subprime loans into collateralised debt obligations (CDOs) which are being rated at AAA level, guaranteeing the eventual collapse of Wall Street. Mean nothing to you? Don’t worry, here’s adult entertainer Farah Abraham to illustrate these technical terms as she’s getting ploughed by a man twice her age. How about the frightening issue of the Securities and Exchange Commission upholding no regulations for monitoring mortgage-backed security activity. Scary, but went straight over your head right? Say no more, here’s a frolicking emu to peck at the topic.

Do you see the problem here? The financial crisis, and what banks are still selling today, is terrifying. Absolutely petrifying. Witnessing unemployment rates rocket whilst homes, families and actual lives are lost, disintegrating into an ever-increasing total fuelled by greed and sickening motives. It’s obscene. The system is broken, and the events that preceded the tipping point are the most important years of modern history. No exaggeration. I cannot begin to overstate how deftly consequential, and omnipotent, the financial industry is.

However, my problem, my absolute colossal issue, is that you rarely witness the horror in The Big Short. Rarely do you experience the abhorrent fraudulent cynicism of capitalism. Why? Well, because someone named Adam McKay would rather subject the viewers to unconventional comedy in order to make light of the impending doom.

No. I’m sorry, but no. Breaking the fourth wall to explain financial concepts in the most patronising lines of dialogue possible is literal butchery. Acquiring celebrity cameos to lavishly detail, and derail, terms by utilising analogies that a primary school teacher would fully layout to the class is insulting. Etching diagrams onto the screen, in this case, a testicle because apparently, we have no idea what one looks like, to evoke a needless sense of comedy is futile. These are just deterrent distractions. Obstructing the harrowing events at the centre of McKay’s charades.

The worst part is that he actually does utilise the characters to explain financial jargon to each other. The Jenga construction of bond credit ratings, for example. Vennett describes the eventual collapse perfectly to the FrontPoint partners. Character to character. But of course, McKay treats us like babies and has Gosling break character only to stare into the camera and narrate our, no sorry, his thoughts and further clarify terms in case they weren’t simple enough. This is even without mentioning Corwin’s frenetic editing that never lets the situational horror simmer. Just constantly keeps ticking over every important emotional detail, retaining a distance from these characters. I yearn to feel Michael Burry’s anguish and pressure. I wish to become enveloped in Mark Baum’s disgust with American bureaucracy. The rare occasion, mostly Ben Rickert outlining the effects of the impending collapse and how innocent civilians will perish, upholds the true terror of the crisis. But it’s not enough to truly denote its greater impact on America.

McKay focussed too much on the excessive meta-references, naturally considering his terrible filmography of comedies, that he diverted from the heart of the “Doomsday machine”. Glossy for the sake of being unconventional. It doesn’t sit right with me. At all. What’s more infuriating, is that the performances were all excellent. Bale, Carell, Gosling and even Pitt. Yet they were diluted by a purposefully satirical tone that danced around the crisis. Unforgivable. I understand why McKay took this approach. I acknowledge how many viewers can get onboard with the comedy. I get it. I just don’t agree with McKay’s execution in the slightest. And it’s only because I’m so passionate about the subject, that The Big Short really did fall short.