Starring: Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong, Hamish Linklater, Finn Wittrock, John Magaro, Brad Pitt, Marisa Tomei, Max Greenfield, Billy Magnussen, Melissa Leo, Karen Gillan
Directed By: Adam McKay
A brilliant script, a topical piece, and a great ensemble ruined by a director out of his league. If Adam McKay gets any kind of directing nominations from this, we’ve all lost our fucking minds. I thought the directing of the piece was the most distracting thing about the film, and honestly the reason I’m scoring it low. I have no problems with the script. I thought it was smart but it did a great job of explaining everything for the audience. I thought the ensemble was strong, even if no one is delivering their “best work”, or even for the year. The script is topical and important, but dammit if Adam McKay isn’t fucking everything up.
I love McKay when he works with Will Ferrell (Step Brothers, Talladega Nights, Anchorman, The Other Guys). He’s like the Ferrell Whisperer. He knows exactly how to bring the right kind of funny out of Will, and together they produce his best films. Here, The Big Short feels like it was directed by someone on a heavy heroin addiction. Sometimes the film cuts, in the most abrupt and uncomfortable ways. Once, we jumped mid word during a line from Charlie (Magaro). It was so haphazardly put together that I’m actually surprised it’s an awards contender. I think its a true testament to the strength of the ensemble and the script that this film is even in consideration for Best Picture. It’s one of the worst directing I’ve seen in a long time.
He jumps around, uses two different narrators, and fills gaps with references to pop culture in an effort to show what Americans truly cared about while this whole collapse was happening. How we didn’t see it coming, but a few men did. Using random celebrities to explain things felt funny the first time Margot Robbie did it, but by the time we got around to Selena Gomez, I was wondering why they bothered hiring different celebrities at all. Why not just stick with Margot Robbie in the bathtub? Did Selena Gomez owe Adam McKay a favor?
Carell does a great job here, but I can’t help but think he was better in Foxcatcher, and there were better performances this year. Same for Christian Bale, who has been truly unbelievable a few times in his career. He was outstanding in The Fighter, and this just pales in comparison. Gosling has had showier roles, and Brad Pitt is underused here. As far as this being a strong contender in the acting categories, I have my doubts. Together, as an ensemble, along with the other actors not in the A-List, they pull off a great piece of ensemble work. But to single out one performance would be irresponsible. No one person carries this movie.
If you can get past Adam McKay’s distracting directing, you’ll find a pretty great film underneath. I definitely walked out having felt that I saw something everyone needs to see. Not every “important” film is an A-quality film though. Sometimes, a film is important because of the subject matter, the message, the theme, or even just a single great performance. So while I highly recommend you see The Big Short, it isn’t because the film is truly remarkable on its own. It’s because the subject matter, and the lengths the film goes to explain it, demand your attention. If you’re wondering what happened in 2008 to the housing market, you’ll leave this film feeling like you achieved closure. You’ll understand what went wrong, and why it can never happen again. Hopefully, McKay can do the same from analyzing this film, so his next film doesn’t feel directed by a heroin addict, or an 8 year old hopped up on Red Bull. Get your shit together, McKay.
FINAL GRADE: B