The best part of “Eat the Rich: The GameStop Saga” is that it manages to tell a complicated financial story with a fair amount of humor and context, in a way that doesn’t demonize the various parties, which doesn’t spare them from various levels of mockery. The result is a Netflix docuseries that, despite a few excesses, exposes the more ridiculous aspects of stock trading and where all that paper can come to resemble a house of cards.
The appeal of the GameStop story resided in the David-vs.-Goliath framework of online traders essentially banding together to buck conventional wisdom by investing in a perceived dinosaur stock, in the process threatening the cushy velvet-rope existence of giant hedge funds, whose arrogance regarding the initial encroachment began to resemblance hubris as it came crashing down on them.
Produced in conjunction with the Wall Street Journal, the docuseries (really just a feature documentary, diced into three 40-minute parts) mostly resists the temptation to take sides, although a few of those featured or interviewed can’t help but appear a bit silly, among them CNBC’s bombastic Jim Cramer.
The same goes for the eccentric cast of characters that occupied the David role, although to be fair, the project would have been better had it curbed indulging its more outlandish impulses, like allowing one of them to rap badly.
The fundamental question at the heart of it all is who wound up manipulating whom, as groups using Reddit (via its WallStreetBets community) and TikTok kept bidding up GameStop’s stock price at a moment when hedge funds had been shorting it.
Director Theo Love represents all sides of that equation, with narrator Guy Raz and his NPR-honed delivery bringing just the right amount of whimsy to the proceedings, while underscoring the serious disruptive potential of an entity like Robinhood’s pledge to democratize trading.
As the title suggests, the documentary also taps into simmering resentment toward the financial industry among people who see the system as being rigged against them, which provoked delight watching an enterprise like the hedge fund Melvin Capital hemorrhage money as short sellers lost billions.
Perhaps the most salient impression watching “Eat the Rich,” though, is recalling just how big the story was – and how quickly media and markets move on, without addressing the vulnerabilities that allowed the GameStop saga to unfold.
That might make for an entertaining David-vs.-Goliath story in Netflix terms, but it doesn’t resolve the fact that if you have investments in the stock market, it’s hardly reassuring to know that even the so-called smart money – the folks who play Monopoly, as the saying goes, with real buildings – can wind up getting whacked right between the eyes.
“Eat the Rich: The GameStop Saga” premieres September 28 on Netflix.