I liked the movie. A lot. I laughed – a lot. I also cried inside. The film is that complicated thing, a tragi-comedy. Its co-writer and director, Adam McKay, breaks the ‘fourth wall’ of movie-making not just by allowing characters to speak to camera; not just by insisting on ‘telling’ as well as ‘showing’ (which apparently movie schools prohibit) but also by refusing to patronise his audience.
Playing to McKay’s proven strengths, the actors portray antisocial rogues, whose many aesthetic and interpersonal faux pas score many of the film’s early laughs. This could be viewed as yet another decision to pander, but in its performances The Big Short finds its unlikely pathos. This is not despite the celebrity baggage of its world-famous leads, but because of it.
Even though McKay gives the impression he is using recognizable forms of infotainment to educate us, the film doesn’t do that—it’s barely in the form of a movie. This disrespect is what makes The Big Short so satisfying. It jeers at and burlesques Wall Street for letting the crash happen, using Michael Lewis’s book to show there were people who knew it was going to happen. Its slapdash quality reinforces the idea that it needed to be made.