I’ve seen all of the best picture Oscar nominees now after watching The Big Short today and my verdict is it’s definitely my least favorite of the bunch. I think the contest is really anybody’s game at this point while there certainly has been some back-and-forth between The Big Short and Spotlight taking the win. For the first time in a while, the big winner announced later this month could actually be a surprise to Academy Award viewers.
The Big Short at first felt like the focus of writer Charles Randolph and director Adam McKay was to make the viewer feel like they were watching the making of a movie about a movie depicting the housing and economic crash in 2008 rather than a drama about those events, the people who knew about them and those who were impacted.
The transition for Adam McKay from comedy to drama did not work so well in my opinion, but I did like the script and writing from Randolph based on a book by Michael Lewis.
The story is told by weaving the personal career paths and lives of Steve Carell (Mark Baum), Christian Bale (Michael Burry), Brad Pitt (Ben Rickert), and Ryan Gosling (Jared Vennett) as they work in the banking industry and in their own way discover the housing bubble and economy was set to crash as a result of selling bad mortgages and issuing loans to people who couldn’t afford them.
Michael Burry learns, through crunching numbers and studying mortgage patterns, what is going to happen and his discovery leads to other investors buying insurance on the mortgage bonds for when the market would ultimately crash. (I think.)
As is surely well-known, the film is supposed to explain what happened leading up to and in 2008 in simple terms (with some tongue-in-cheek scenes featuring Margot Robbie and Anthony Bourdain) while telling the stories of the four main banking characters and some in supporting roles who had a hand in the industry during that time.
The film is also a commentary on what happened by displaying that the general public in the U.S. was too consumed by other news and pop culture trends at the time and and those issuing loans and bad mortgages were covering it up, or lying to themselves.
There were just too many components to The Big Short in that regard and the style, I think, ultimately took away from what a film about that moment in history could be. Perhaps Michael Lewis’ book as the source material is to blame. I can’t say because I haven’t read it, but whatever creative liberties McKay and the rest of the film’s creators used fell flat for me.
I did like the performances overall, especially by Gosling and Pitt, but they didn’t redeem the film for me.