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Arts The Big Short finds laughs and tragedy in Wall Street’s absurdity

In this image released by Paramount Pictures, Christian Bale appears in a scene from "The Big Short." The movie opens in U.S. theaters on Dec. 23, 2015.

Jaap Buitendijk/AP

Title
The Big Short
Written by
Adam McKay, Charles Randolph (based on The Big Short by Michael Lewis)
Directed by
Adam McKay
Starring
Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt
Country
USA
Language
English
Year
2015

It's funny because it's true. And it's tragic and frightening for the same reason.

Adapted from Michael Lewis's bestselling book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, Adam McKay's stylized comedic take on the international banking collapse of 2007-08 nerds up Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt and an Oscar-baiting Christian Bale as real-life money-managing eccentrics who, independently, come to realize a market based on subprime loans is going to tank. They decide to short the booming housing market, basically betting on the collapse of the world's economy.

McKay demystifies big-money jargon and esoterica in enterprising – disruptive? – fourth-wall-smashing ways, such as having shiny pop singer Selena Gomez cameo-explain synthetic collateralized debt obligations.

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McKay made a co-name for himself with Will Ferrell collaborations including Anchorman, but here he lets the outlandishness of a rigged, fairy-tale financial system create its own serious absurdity. The Big Short has a reckless, off-balance energy, with an ending that doesn't really end the uncertainty: The collapse could happen again, no joke.

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