Friday, April 13, 2007

Movie Chat: The Game

The Game

I watched this again because I wanted to see if the comments I made about David Fincher in my post on Zodiac actually stood up to scrutiny.

While I may have exaggerated slightly, I think what I said holds up: The Game does have some subtext, but, for the most part, it lays everything out for the audience, theme-wise if not plot-wise.

What's interesting is that the movie's message isn't one you see very often in such an unadulterated form: Michael Douglas's character doesn't need to let people into his life or learn to treat people better or even take his job less seriously - he just needs a shock, he needs to feel what it's like to live life on the edge, or even over the edge, where life may not be worth living. It's a movie about sensations - paranoia and tension - whose message is that these sensations are an important part of life: your life may not be a roller-coaster, but it should be.

But I like the movie: it's more of a lightweight than similar what's-really-real? movies like Memento or The Matrix, but it also turns out to be more modest than those movies. It doesn't really make any grand claims about the nature of reality. It's more like a "darker" version of The Stunt Man, although it isn't as well acted. In fact, the performances might be the weakest part of the movie, which is otherwise put together with a great deal of skill. I'm not quite sure why they bothered to cast Sean Penn in a role that requires him to act normal (in all but one scene) and Michael Douglas plays it too straight - he's better when he overacts (Wall Street) or plays for comedy (Wonder Boys) or, even better, does both (Falling Down).


Steve said...

Fincher does strike me as basically a lightweight with some heavyweight stylistic tricks in his arsenal. As you say, his themes are always right on the surface, easily digestible, with nothing to think about or linger over afterward. I haven't seen ZODIAC, but his characters always seem thin to me--serving the needs of the plot and nothing more. People may be freaked out by the thought of Gwyneth Paltrow's head in a box in SEVEN, but it's not something that sticks with you the way, say, Sissy Spacek's archetypal character in De Palma's CARRIE sticks with you.

The difference carries through in your reference to THE STUNT MAN, one of my favorite movies. It's not just at the level of the acting that the movies differ. Peter O'Toole is playing a great, larger-than-life character, who transcends the reality-and-illusion games in the script. His performance really gives you something to chew on.

Jon Hastings said...

Heh - I don't mind that he's a lightweight, per se: I think there's something to be said for movies that just lay everything out - not every movie (not even every serious movie) needs to be something to think about.

I love The Stunt Man, too. O'Toole is great, but what also makes it work better than The Game is that Railsback is great, too. His loner-on-the-run character gets at a kind of desperation & paranoia that gives the movie an emotional center that The Game can only gesture at.

Steve said...

But Fincher seems to have developed an unearned heavyweight rep. SEVEN strikes me as one of those schlocky serial killer movies that pose as profound (see also: SILENCE OF THE LAMBS).

Of course you're right about Railsback -- terrific actor.