A biographical recreation of the financial crisis of 2007 doesn’t sound like a solid foundation for a comedy movie but that’s exactly what director Adam McKay has attempted to build. Clearly someone in the Academy thinks the experiment was a success because it was nominated for five Oscars and successfully won 1 of them. But did The Big Short deserve the nod?
Starting in 2005, The Big Short details 3 concurrent stories all following the narrative of someone spotting the impending financial crash and using their foresight to make some money to varying success. That sentence was so dull. To jazz it up, the on-screen characters often break the fourth wall and cut to celebrity cameos to explain what is going on in “real words” and to keep your attention…also to varying success.
One of the Academy Award nominations The Big Short was bestowed was “Best Supporting Actor” for Christian Bale. Personally, I’m not sure that his role can be described as “supporting” as he’s clearly one of the main people in the movie. Playing Dr. Michael Burry, Christian Bale’s performance is a kind of all over the place. With the role, Bale takes on the task of playing a human coping with aspergers and a glass eye, sometimes Bale handles the condition with subtlety whilst he sometimes descends into “Hollywood hammy”.
Other big name actors in the movie include Steve Carell, Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling. Carell and Gosling work hard with the material given; Gosling, in particular, throws everything into 1 speech and earns, by far, the biggest laugh in a flick I would struggle to categorise as a comedy. Brad Pitt, on the other hand, just seemed to phoning in his performance. Another Oscar nominated film to add to his collection. Pitt was there in physical presence but there was nothing behind the eyes.
The most obvious problem with The Big Short is simply that the banking terms are far too frequent and too complicated to understand. And when the movie does take the time to explain the jargon it only exposing the actual story as very dry. A movie to compare this with would be DiCaprio’s The Wolf of Wall Street, just remove the drunk and drugged up debauchery, the nudity and the personality. Perhaps this is the quintessential Academy Award bait movie that is worth a watch but certainly not worth re-watching.