Like most Fincher stuff, R-Rated. A solid R, but not a hard R.
DIRECTOR: David Fincher
This one I have neglected for too long. Every single film snob has seen the complete works of David Fincher, but for some reason, I missed this one. Criticized by some as being one of his lesser works, I have to be part of the contrarians who disagree with this. I got this due to Barnes & Noble's 50% Criterion sale. Maybe it is just the amazing print I saw of this movie, but this is an absolutely gorgeous film and I'm glad to have a new movie to add to the list of greats.
I kind of watch this movie as the prototypical Fincher movie. It is low light and has that washed out effect to most of the movie. Just looking at the color palette above, you can tell that this is Fincher. It has been so often replicated, especially post Fight Club, but there is something authentic when Fincher gets his hands on a movie that can't really be imitated. And that's what makes Fincher brilliant. He is a master at the aesthetic. From moment one, he establishes the tone. Like Se7en, the opening credits are the non-diagetic element used to tell us exactly what we're getting into. The use of the Super-8 style home movie is haunting. It is odd to think that a viewer has to have a rudimentary understanding of what the movie is going to be about to really even appreciate what is happening. Everything feels like a clue to some greater puzzle.
When teaching The 39 Steps, the students were disappointed with the result of the puzzle. There are some stories that really have to stick the landing on the puzzle to make it work. I don't know if that's necessarily true here. The result of the game itself is adequate, but it isn't the crux of the story. If anything, Fincher creates such a sense of paranoia with the viewer that he is meant to question even the ending presented. Fincher himself becomes the unreliable narrator because of his own choices. Perhaps I'm going a little Room 237, but I'm not sure that Michael Douglas's character survives. There are a few moments where this feels like the afterlife. We were discussing the fact that Hitchcock didn't mind pushing the limits of plausibility when it came to getting his perfect ending and Fincher embraces / subverts that idea.
Cracked.com made a video saying that The Game out-Christmas Carols A Christmas Carol. While I am hesitant to fully embrace that likeness, I do love the parallels. The odd thing is that Nicholas Van Orton never goes to the depths of depravity that Ebenezer Scrooge does. I'm working on a story about the dangers of mediocrity. Fincher may have covered that idea himself. Van Orton isn't a bad guy, but he seems genuinely unhappy. He has done bad things, but his position almost advocates that these things are more along the lines of difficult and unpopular choices. The odd thing SPOILERS is that Van Orton apologizes to those he's wronged. Yes, he handled the termination of his father's friend poorly, but those choices are weirdly justified. Between being under the stress of the titular game and the fact that a contract was broken, Van Orton never gets to that truly selfish attitude that Scrooge presents. Yet, the framework is there. A Christmas Carol holds a truly dear part of my heart. I think it might be the perfectly framed story. Spoofs and homages to the movie are usually heavy-handed, yet enjoyable. I really love Scrooged. The Game takes the premise and isn't enslaved by the story in any way.
I have been fawning over this movie quite a bit, but it isn't perfect. I think I loved it because it drew my attention for the entire film. There are some odd choices and there are moments where I had to shut my brain off to justify the things going on-screen. Nicholas Van Orton probably should have died a few times. The idea that everything was part of the game is beyond explanation or comprehension. But I just didn't care. Again, I think Van Orton died. But I am also cool with the fact that he maybe didn't. That might be a testament to Fincher's filmmaking. I don't care that there are plot holes. The story was worth telling and I gladly accepted its flaws as part of the greater need to tell this awesome story.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.