Archetypes: Film: Review: ‘The Big Short’ (2015)

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

In the continuously expanding and contracting world of finance, fortunes are made by those able to spot markers ahead of everyone else, just like the men propelling the narrative in The Big Short. Co-written and directed by Adam McKay, and based on Michael Lewis’ non-fiction book about the meltdown in the housing market in 2008, the movie is a bittersweet tale that underscores how being on a huge payday trajectory can nevertheless leave a hole in both heart and conscience.

The Big Short dumbs down nothing, insisting its audience rise up to the informational occasion, with definitions and analogies presented, in sketch segments, by Anthony Bourdain, Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez. And although we don’t exit the movie house armed with newly minted MBAs, we absorb enough of what’s said to appreciate the underbelly that was in full view, if only one knew how to direct one’s gaze.

One of the guys who did the gazing was barefoot metal head and physician Dr. Michael Burry (Christian Bale), who runs a fund. Burry sets the ball rolling when, after scrutinizing hundreds of documents, he knows it’s just a matter of time before the housing market implodes. With a bottomless pit of money at his disposal, he visits a series of banking conglomerates to formalize his bets against that sector.

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

Word gets around to a select few: well meaning but irritating worrywart hedge-fund trader Mark Baum (Steve Carell); the movie’s narrator-banker Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), who’s out for whatever he can get; and Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt), a guy who has put his Wall-Street days behind him, only to reemerge to help out two neophyte investors – Charles Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) – who possess the semblance of a conscience

It’s impossible to miss the contractive and expansive dynamic woven into this modern-day money tale of catastrophic proportions. Saturnine obstacles had previously prevented a large segment of the population from getting bank loans to buy property. Now these borrowers’ inability to make regular payments would once again usher in limitation. Meeting this archetypal contraction head on was the lenders’ and bankers’ Jupiterian aggrandizement, set on increasing profits at any cost. The desire to extend oneself affects regular folks too. A strangely heartbreaking scene involves a stripper telling a stunned Blum – who has already seen the handwriting on the wall – that she owns several homes and a condo. Initially we’re provoked to think,  “Serves her right for being greedy.” Then, as the genuine panic on her face sets in, we realize, “She’s everyone.”

The root of the word “mortgage” means “dead pledge.” Manic and utterly engrossing The Big Short sharply resurrects and then skewers the “dead” part.

Archetype: Profiteer.

Astrology Archetype: ♃ ♄ (Jupiter, Saturn)

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