The Game review by Tom Blain
Ten years ago (my-my, that was a long time ago) there was a screening of The Game at my campus theatre which I missed. Of course all my friends saw it and came out the theatres with zombie stares on their faces as they tried to piece together what they had just seen. Whenever I would ask them about the movie, I got a few pad answers I wouldnt want to ruin it for you. Thanks. Then there would be one odd reaction that sticks with me to this day, Its a movie you can only see once. I can never watch it again When hearing this, its usually contained in the BAD MOVIE circle of a filmic Venn Diagram. However, the people that would tell me this would follow with the paradoxical, but man it was a great movie. I was left scratching my head and even more intrigued than ever.
So yes I did see the movie not long after it came out on DVD and to be honest it did disappoint me a bit (for reasons, Ill get into), but I never understood the idea of only being able to watch the movie once. In spite of this comment, approximately ten years later I found myself watching and enjoying it *even more*.
Just to bring you up to speed with the obligatory synopsis Gordon Gecko, is now known as Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas). By that I mean, Douglas plays a wealthy but unhappy invester/financier. He really doesnt react kindly to anyone around him be it his ex-wife Elizabeth (Anna Katrina), his brother Conrad (Sean Penn) or even a hot waitress Christine (Deborah Kara Unger). He is sort of a rich dick to put it mildly. On his birthday, Conrad nonchalantly gives him a gift made especially for the man who has everything. Its an invitation to play in this non-descript game created by a company named CRS. A game Conrad went through that changed his life (got him on the straight and narrow). An irritated yet curious Nicholas goes through an interview process at CRS like he was being interviewed for a job. CRS itself appears to be an average company in the middle on San Francisco (receptionist, cubicles, desks, lots of people, etc). Its all no big deal but still he has no idea what he is getting into. A few people in a gym locker room talk about being in the game, and they dont share any information with him other than an obscure bible reference, I once was blind, but now I can see.
The game begins without warning. Nicholas is being monitored within his own home and messed with over his favorite TV show. Later he is lead into the parking garage when he thinks he is in an ambulance after following a waitress (queue up Jefferson Airplanes White Rabbit for some Alice In Wonderland references) that turns into helping out a guy with a heart attack. All the gags soon turn sour as he is blackmailed for committing heinous crimes, has his bank accounts cleaned out by CRS, and is dropped off across the border in Mexico. His brother comes back to Nicholas in hysterics claiming the game never ends and that they just keep messing with his life (as they are still messing with Conrad even though he apparently finished the game). So the question is raised at this point, Is the game for real or just a scam?
The Game turns into a Hitchcock film (think North By Northwest or Wrong Man) where the protagonist is accused of something wrong or is controlled by incredible outside forces and must find his way out by himself.
Anyone serious about seeing this movie probably has taken the chance within the last ten years but Ill throw out the obligatory SPOILER warning right now anyway.
The point of the game was of course to breath life into Nicholas who was pretty much dead emotionally (questionably suicidal) and unable to cure his ails with lots of money (although you could argue that millions of dollars went into the game that eventually fixed him). The Game has more in common with Fight Club than any of the other David Fincher flicks. In both movies, the protagonist has everything any capitalist American man needs, although there is the absence of any sort of steady mate. They both have money, home with all the proper furnishings, although the Narrator in Fight Club is more modest about it he goes the extra mile to itemize for the audience. Nicolas Van Orton just lives in excessive luxury and keeps trying to attain more. In both movies someone enters (brother Conrad, Tyler Durden) who introduces a disruption into their lives that causes them to be removed from their comfort. The Narrator in Fight Club more or less embraces it and lives in it, while Nicolas Van Orton is afforded the opportunity to leave it at the end and return to his mansion, a happier man. But in both cases, true happiness or serenity can only happen after your capitalist life is broken down, disassembled and everything is lost; regardless of whether you rebuild it or not.
Because he does get his life back like that (picture me snapping my fingers), the ending is surreal. Van Orton, loses his money, his house, his job, and thinks he kills his brother. He loses literally everything when he decides to jump and take his own life. And then at the end he receives his life back, along with the life of his brother, his money, and on and on, as it was all just a game.
The ending is one aspect that bothered me the first time but then agreed with me a heck of a lot more the second time. I didnt like it before because it seemed too easy; like a cop-out lets wrap it up type ending. Now I see it differently. This movie reminds me of all those moments where you think If only I could do that over again, or I wish I could take those words back. What is Fincher saying? If you have enough money you can take it all back? No, but if you have enough money you can realize every terrible mistake and misfortune that could happen to you and then have it corrected or taken back. You could hit the reset button and start again. Ah, people with money and their problemsAs the man in they gym said, I once was blind, but now I can see, and by that he means Your life could be a lot harder Nicolas, dont forget you have the life of a rich, wrinkly white dude! If you had jackshit then you would have a reason to be pissed off and depressed so pull that rod out of your ass and grin! There is a bit more depth than my original hypothesis.
Of course one of my complaints of the film still is that with my knowledge of the ending I found myself yelling YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME?! uncontrollably in scenes where Van Ortons life or anyone elses is in immense danger. Like the scenes where windows are shot out. If this is all an elaborate multi-million dollar setup how do you still control flying bullets? Or where a guy like Van Orton will jump from (if you can predict he will indeed jump off a building? Granted its a Fincher film and it stands to make its point but some scenes still bother me even when I throw common sense out the window.
So as my old friend said, You can only see this movie once. I humbly disagree as there are still plenty of points you can pull out of the film upon a second watching even if you know the ending. And does that mean that all movies with twists are only watchable once to my friend or just the ones where everything before it is invalidated? Anyway, The Game has David Fincher near the top of his game and is worth the watch.
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