The Big Short Review

I have never understood the notion of “Deleted Scenes” being put on the Special Features of a DVD or Blu-ray release of a film. I, myself, don’t bother with any of the Special Features and think they’re just a waste of time, but the “Deleted Scenes” is what confuses me the most out of all of them. Why would I want to watch scenes that weren’t good enough to make it into the final cut of the film? The only deleted scenes I’ve semi-enjoyed watching was the Redux version of “Apocalypse Now” and even then I still prefer the original work. “Deleted Scenes” are akin to buying an album and having the artist give you the opportunity to listen to a couple other songs even though they weren’t good enough to make it on the final track list. I’d tell him to get lost and let me listen to the regular album in peace.

Now, some of you may be asking if this is just one of my seemingly never-ending rants about little things in life that annoy me, but the concept of “Deleted Scenes” applies perfectly to “The Big Short.” One of my biggest problems with “The Big Short” is that it ran way too long; with a run time of 130 minutes, it drags on for about 20-30 minutes longer than it should. There isn’t enough engaging content in this story to have it run longer than two hours, yet the creators tried as hard as they could to make it as long as possible. Watching this film, I got the sense that I was watching a cut where they simply hadn’t bothered to remove the deleted scenes.

There are three main story arcs occurring in this film. The first involves Christian Bale’s character, the man who discovers the potential downfall of the housing market and has the idea to short, or bet against, the system. The next story arc is Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell’s story, involving a banker who discovers Bale’s character’s idea and wants to cash in, henceforth bringing in Carell and his quirky accounting team in the process. The third storyline consists of two younger entrepreneurs guided by the assistance of an ex-banker, played by Brad Pitt, who wish to cash in on the opportunity as well. Of these three storylines, however, only the one involving Steve Carell’s and Ryan Gosling’s characters holds any narrative depth. The story involving the young men with Brad Pitt is completely irrelevant and disjointed from the rest of the story and should have been completely removed for time’s sake. Bale’s character is only important because he discovers the potential downfall that is essential to the story, but past the opening sequences, his character doesn’t bring anything substantial to the movie either. If the movie had only told the arc with Carell’s and Gosling’s characters, then it would’ve been more efficient and direct.

Also, the movie doesn’t do itself any justice, especially in terms of adding validity to the storylines involving Pitt and Bale, because all the characters, except for Carell’s, are given little to no background. We don’t know anything about these characters, nor do we care about them as a result. Carell’s character is given a solid background story that explains his nature and what motivates him, adding to the relevance of his storyline. It didn’t take too much time for Carell’s character to be given depth and could have been accomplished without dragging the film out any longer than it needed to be.

My biggest problem with this film, however, is its inability to decide on a tone and stick with it consistently. The first hour and a half of this film is played out like a comedy, and it does this quite well when it’s all said and done, almost like it is striving to be a mini “Wolf of Wall Street.” Surprisingly, for the last forty minutes or so, the creators decided that they actually wanted some of their characters to have a conscience and it becomes a guilt-ridden preach fest about the lunacy behind the entire situation. It’s too drastic of a tone change to work well. If it had remained a black comedy the entire time it would have been much better, or even if it decided from the get go that it wanted to be a serious drama then that would have worked as well. This attempt at portraying two tones simply doesn’t work out as well as it could have done. There was no attempt to mix the comedy and sobering harsh reality of it all either. It simply hit a time in the film where everything took a U-turn and became a completely different animal as a result.

This review isn’t going to be all fire and brimstone because they are some positives about this film. Carell’s performance is very good, and I’m starting to see him more as a serious actor rather than a comedy performer. He actually portrays serious characters much better than comedic ones now after this role and his performance in “Foxcatcher.” The first hour and a half of this film, the portion that is focused on black comedy, is well written with sharp humor and is entertaining despite the aforementioned pitfalls. It’s really the final third of the movie, when it tries to get serious, that ruins it for me. Also, the film manages to explain complicated terms and concepts to the audience in an entertaining way by getting celebrities to provide metaphoric definitions for various key words. Having Margot Robbie (the wife in Wolf of Wall Street) sit in a bath and explain the housing crisis is far more entertaining than having a random banker or narrator explain the concept to me. Some people may view it as condescending on the director’s part, but I think it’s quite cool. Sadly, all the sharp dark humor and celebrity appearances can’t make up for the lack of cohesion in the story’s main themes and irrelevance of certain storylines that ultimately ruin this film. A film that seemed like such a good idea but ultimately came crashing down to the ground due to too much confused jumble. Oddly metaphoric of the housing market situation, isn’t it?

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The Big Short (2015): 2.5/4 stars

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