Gemma Creagh softens for Apple TV Biography the Beanie Bubble.
For Millennials onwards, Economic bubbles are old hat. We all remember the property boom, where average joe soaps bought land in Croatia with Credit Union loans, or the Dot Com rush where ‘90s investors saw investment opportunities in E-cards. Recently Crypto gave Gen Z their first hit as Bored Ape Yacht Club sales reached a total of $2.04 billion. However, now we’re two decades on, it’s hard to imagine now that small, plushy toys were making millions on their resale.
The Beanie Bubble examines the rise and fall of the Beanie Baby empire, from its humble beginnings to soaring heights and eventual catastrophic fiscal failure. This is an interesting take on a finance biographical; instead of presenting The Wolf of Wall Street-type alpha male on a pedestal or delving into the financial systems at play like The Big Short, this film focuses on a rather intimate and forensic character study of Ty Warner (Zach Galifianakis). The man behind the multi-billion-dollar fad had a pattern when it came to the opposite sex, and the story unfolds from the perspective of three women that he let down in a varied but spectacularly terrible manner. They are a composite of Ty’s real-life relationships.
The narrative follows a non-linear structure, moving between the company’s inception with Ty’s love interest and company co-founder Robbie (Elizabeth Banks). Then forward to 1997, when a furious single mother and designer Sheila (Sarah Snook) waits for Ty in his mansion, having been stood up professionally for three hours. After she berates him, it’s love at first sight for Ty. So after months of love bombing Sheila, despite her initial resistance to any form of romance, she allows Ty in. Meanwhile, Maya (Geraldine Viswanathan), a marketing visionary and Ty’s mentee, uses her unique understanding of the latest craze, this world wide web malarky, to spur on the company’s growth. She notices that their limited-run products are selling for high prices on an auction site “E-port, E-bay or some shit,” and nurtures the online presence of the business.
As the company rides this wave going from strength to strength, the true nature of Ty’s callous narcissism beneath his eccentric facade is unveiled. Galifianakis skilfully and deftly portrays this duality well, flashing a hint of something altogether more sinister at the most pivotal of moments before returning to that goofy charm. Despite the personal toll this series of toxic relationships takes on these women, the film maintains a light tone as well as a striking visual vibrance. The bold production design and wardrobe choices range from vivid colour blocking to sleek and stylish.
Playing with form, there’s an unpredictability to the writing. How these stories are manifested on screen is a testament to the collaborative efforts of the husband and wife team at the helm. The screenplay is adapted by Kristin Gore from the book The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: The Amazing Story of How America Lost Its Mind Over a Plush Toy–and the Eccentric Genius Behind It, written by Zac Bissonnette. Gore then co-directs with her husband, Damian Kulash, the composer and frontman of OK Go. What’s unique about this perspective is the empathy extended to Maya, Robbie, and Shiela. The pair manage to capture the selfish weakness of this man, without taking any agency from the women who had to deal with him.
The Beanie Boom provides a backhanded glimpse into the systemic issues facing women in a corporate setting while delivering a textured visual feast and a few laughs along the way.
The Beanie Bubble is available to stream on Apple TV from 28th July 2023.