I don’t know about you but I generally leave my financial portfolio to those I believe know the market better than I do and will, out of professional pride and a sense of decency, seek to preserve my financial health. (I must be living in some fantasy-land). However, I do like to follow, from a distance, the various pitfalls and freefalls of the stock market, so I did follow the goings-on with GameStop a few years back. And now, in limited release (though it may be wider by the time you read this), Dumb Money, a pretty entertaining (and fairly accessible) movie has been made about a time not so long ago when people put their trust in a YouTube/Reddit influencer and bought shares in GameStop, a company that was generally seen to be on its last legs.
You may need to know a little know about short-selling (and the pitfalls, as in the losses in a short-sale can be quite precipitous), but you don’t have to be a financial genius to follow the emotional arc of the story. (By the way, “dumb money” refers to individual investors—you learn something every day.) Paul Dano is Keith Gill, who works in finance, but has a side gig as an influencer of sorts. He has a feeling about GameStop, so he buys a lot of shares ($50,000 worth) and shares his earnings and the stock’s rise with his followers. It also arouses the curiosity and ire of various hedge-fund managers (like Seth Rogen’s Gabriel Plotkin and Nick Offerman’s Kenneth Griffin). So besides the big-time financial players, you have a cross-section of people who take a gamble, hoping both to slam it to Wall Street and benefit at the same time. These include America Ferrera’s single mother/debt-ridden nurse who plans to use her earnings to pay off her debts (and get her kid some braces), Anthony Ramos’ GameStop employee who has dreams and talent—and is stifled by his rigid employers, Talia Ryder and Myha’la Herrold as deep-in-debt college students looking for a way out of their financial hole. And then there’s Keith’s underachiever brother (an engaging Pete Davidson) and Keith’s wife (Shalene Woodley) who is supportive but wonders whether they should get out while they still can.
In the end, some win, some lose. As someone who has occasionally gambled (more like lost), when you’re losing, you hold on in hopes your luck will turn. When you’re winning, you want to add more, confident you’ll “know when to fold’em.” What works about Dumb Money is the humor, the individual character quirks, and the compassion it displays toward its aspirational crazy quilt of characters. It’s briskly directed by Craig Gillespie and intelligently written by Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo (from The Antisocial Network by Ben Mizrich). Give it a try—and watch those stocks.
I never went to a theater camp (though I did go to summer camp) but I know those who do fine work at those theater camps. Their pride in the campers and their ability to elicit the best from their variably talented charges must be very gratifying. You get some of that in Theater Camp, an improvisational mock-documentary about a pivotal summer in the life of a theater camp. How pivotal is it? The founder Joan (played by Amy Sedaris, in a regrettably brief appearance) is in a coma (courtesy of a bad response to a strobe effect) and her brash but misguided son Troy (Jimmy Tatro) tries both to take charge and learn what theater is all about (“What’s a straight play?”). Then you have the returning counselors…at least some of them who haven’t bailed after Troy’s arrival. Most prominent is Ben Platt’s Amos and Molly Gordon’s Rebecca-Diane, teacher/performers, best friends, and dedicated to the camp’s survival—or are they as fully invested as they believe they are. There’s also this original musical based on Joan’s life that is lacking a socko finale, a neighboring (and more lucrative) camp that wants to take over, and an assortment of talented (and not-so-talented) kids and counselors.
Theater Camp evolved from a short film, and those involved in the original are the creative forces here, including Molly Gordon, Ben Platt, Nick Lieberman and Noah Galvin. Platt and Gordon do a fine job on the writing front (Gordon and Lieberman directed) and excel as talented but insecure performers who want to do a good job—when ego doesn’t get in the way. Most of the other performers are good (Jimmy Tatro’s character is a bit improbable, but he grows on you) and the enthusiasm and good feeling, especially toward the end, are infectious. It’s now on Hulu if you didn’t see it in theaters and certainly worth a try.