Movie Title: The Big Short
Critic Name: Rana Jazar
Movie Genre: Mix of Comedy, Drama and Biographical
Ontario Movie Rating: 14A
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale & Steve Carell
Director: Adam McKay
General Age of People in the Theater: 20s – 30s
Tobacco Use: Three instances throughout the movie (once with a cigar, twice with cigarettes)
The Big Short is a biographical depiction of those who were able to predict (and cash in on) the housing market crash of 2008, including high ranking men in the finance world, such as Michael Burry (Christian Bale), Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), and Mark Baum (Steve Carell), as well as some fresh college graduates looking to strike gold (played by John Magaro and Finn Wittrock). I’d spoil the ending for you, but chances are that, if you’re old enough to read this review, you’re probably also old enough to remember the 2008 economy. Even if you weren’t old enough to understand why a housing market crash mattered, you probably remember your parents and people on the news simultaneously freaking out about it. For this reason, this movie is pretty close to being the perfect movie for millennials. The humour is wonderfully dark and the soundtrack uses early-2000s gangster rap in ways that are so perfect, yet unexpected, that it gets you a little excited.
Aside from this, there is a certain characteristic about millennials that the creators of this film clearly understood: we’re a lot smarter than many people understand. Being submerged in media, we have access to a lot of information – sometimes more than we can handle. We understand that market crashes occur, but we’re fuzzy on the details and because of that we’re often afraid of conspiracy-esque theories and occurrences. Thus, the film went about explaining the issue in a way that we could understand – by watching Margot Robbie drink champagne in a bathtub and Selena Gomez play blackjack as they explain the concept behind subprime mortgages and synthetic CDOs, respectively. Although it may sound ridiculous, it does appeal to a certain intellect unique to the generation. Accordingly, they made no attempt to sugar coat or glamorize any of the actual story. Unlike in The Wolf of Wall Street, the characters weren’t consistently smoking or doing drugs to make themselves look especially suave, sophisticated or rebellious. Even the scenes where sexuality was present were characteristically lacking a sexual element (Steve Carell has an entire conversation with a topless dancer about what she should do about her current loans). They were far more realistic about it: they were a bunch of nerds crunching numbers in their office who didn’t smoke because it was the early 2000s and smoking rates were significantly down by that point.
There were, however three instances in the film where tobacco was present. Once at the beginning during a flashback to the 1980s, when the scheming loophole in the mortgage system was created and (to signify all the money the banks were now all rolling in) the scene is of an unknown bank executive in a strip club, throwing around money and smoking a cigar. The second instance was in a casino in Las Vegas where a man in the background is smoking a cigarette while playing on a slot machine. The third instance was in a pub in England where a random drunk man yelled profanities at Brad Pitt while smoking and drinking. This ties into my point about lacking glamorization – while tobacco was present, it wasn’t being used by any of the main characters (in fact these characters didn’t even have names or get more than 20-30 seconds of screen time), there weren’t any particular brands being pushed, and none of them were youth. Furthermore, the only real point the presence of tobacco served in this movie (especially in regards to the first and third instances) was to accentuate that these minor characters were unlikeable and nothing to aspire to. The tobacco was in no way necessary for this point to be made (throwing money at an exotic dancer and yelling profanities at a stranger are pretty bad in themselves), although I don’t believe they are significant – or even attractive – enough to push youth to want to smoke. Let’s be honest: we’re smarter than that.