'Big Short' goes long on comedy to look at 2007-09 financial crisis

Tue Dec 8, 2015 1:59pm EST
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - It is not easy to find the humor in the financial crisis that hit the U.S. economy eight years ago, but the "The Big Short" uses comedy as a lens to examine the intricacies and failures of Wall Street.

The movie, starring Christian Bale, Brad Pitt and Steve Carell and out in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, takes a quirky look at the mortgage-backed security debacle that led to the U.S. sliding into recession from 2007, and the money managers who bet against the financial might of the U.S. economy.

And it had nothing to do with short people.

"I wanted to show that (the financial collapse) was more about a system than it was about individuals," director Adam McKay told Reuters. "We need banking. Banking is not, in essence, bad ... we just need not corrupt banking."

McKay, the filmmaker behind raucous Will Ferrell comedies such as “Talladega Nights” and "Anchorman," said he had friends and colleagues on Wall Street and therefore knew not to joke about its people.

Instead, he adapted financial journalist Michael Lewis' best-selling book "The Big Short" by taking audiences on a farcical journey into the little understood world of high finance that led to the recession and some 8.7 million Americans losing their jobs.

"The Big Short" film follows real-life 'shorts' - investors that bet against rising stock and bond prices - portrayed by Bale, Pitt, Carell and Ryan Gosling.

The 'shorts'- traders who are despised by 'long' investors who cheer markets to ever-rising financial heights - correctly saw that the housing boom of the 2000s was largely fueled by aggressive lenders who suckered people into borrowing more money than they could afford.   Continued...

Cast members Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling pose on the red carpet at the premiere of  "The Big Short" in New York in this file photo from November 23, 2015.  REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/Files