In Adam McKays hyped-up comedy-drama based on Michael Lewis’ book he gives a distinctly sardonic spin to what went down in the months leading up to the Great Recession of 2007 and his all-star cast—Ryan Gosling as an amoral opportunist, Steve Carell as the only manager with a conscience, Brad Pitt as a big player turned disillusioned hermit; and Oscar-nominated Christian Bale as an autistic wunderkind—are more than capable of maintaining the manic energy McKay’s vision demands. Jarring edits combine flashbacks with stills of Wall Street bigwigs and the newly homeless; freeze frames are laced with intertitles defining the plot’s more technical terms; surprise celebrity cameos from the likes of Selena Gomez and the late Anthony Bourdain explain exactly what’s happening in layman’s terms using everything from blackjack tables to fish fillets as props, and throughout it all the cast routinely break that fourth wall to help us separate fact from fiction. The result is a giddy, quasi-satirical look at the unchecked greed and ridiculously flawed trade dealings—shored up by government oversight and corporate collusion—which determine just how much our life’s savings are really worth. But the film’s comedic elements never quite mask its bitter cynicism, for all the clever turns in the world can’t erase the fact that those responsible for inflicting so much hardship on others not only avoided jail time, they actually got bailed out with tax dollars raised from the very people they hurt. Nominated for Best Picture of 2016 and winner of Best Adapted Screenplay.

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