627 The Game

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
Post Reply
Message
Author
User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: The Game (David Fincher, 1997)

#126 Post by knives » Wed Dec 10, 2014 4:18 pm

Definitely. He's pretty terrible at the start and the end, but at least now he can crack a joke. Of course that he, a rich white man, feels empowered over being able to laugh and can only reach that point after total destruction makes him seem a worse person to me by the end.

User avatar
John Cope
Joined: Thu Dec 15, 2005 5:40 pm
Location: where the simulacrum is true

Re: The Game (David Fincher, 1997)

#127 Post by John Cope » Wed Dec 10, 2014 7:27 pm

I always took it as an acidic critique of the process itself and a more powerful one for not being overtly obvious and didactic about it. Just let the process critique itself by demonstration of what it is. It may all be "safe" and have certain acceptable results but it's also profoundly abusive and traumatic and, as has been said here already, its vast awareness and foreknowledge is existentially troubling or at least challenging. Or should be anyway. The "happy ending" is a brilliant masterstroke on Fincher's part, a diversion for us and the characters from the underlying, disturbing implications.

User avatar
flyonthewall2983
Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2005 3:31 pm
Location: Indiana
Contact:

Re: The Game (David Fincher, 1997)

#128 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Thu Dec 11, 2014 12:35 am

knives wrote:Definitely. He's pretty terrible at the start and the end, but at least now he can crack a joke. Of course that he, a rich white man, feels empowered over being able to laugh and can only reach that point after total destruction makes him seem a worse person to me by the end.
There's a definite lack of warmth, but Nicholas Van Orton is rather low on the scale of sleazy characters Michael Douglas has played. I'd go as far as to say that the sleaze is replaced by a distance from pretty much everyone, even his brother to a degree. But there's no real lack of empathy, as epitomized in the scene in the cabin when he's telling the Unger character that it's not just him he's ripping off but the people underneath him as well. You sense a deeper burden of responsibility when he's having it out with Conrad in that great scene on the street where the loss of the father is brought up.

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: The Game (David Fincher, 1997)

#129 Post by Mr Sausage » Thu Dec 11, 2014 6:57 am

I think a quote from The Social Network applies pretty well to Nicholas: "You're not an asshole. You're just trying so hard to be." Nicholas uses his wealth and prestige to keep people at arm's length, especially those closest to him. He's not just some asshole, tho'; he's a wounded person, one who evidently had to shoulder some enormous burdens as a child (and onward, as flyonthewall2983's excellent post says). He's a less extreme version of Zuckerburg, who also acts insensitive and boorish in order to forestall being hurt and hide how sensitive he actually is. But beyond a certain aloofness and frigidity, Nicholas doesn't treat anyone poorly or meanly (unlike Zuckerberg).

I think Nicholas' wealth is a misleading signifier here. People are bringing their own politics to it (eg. irrelevant and unknowable details like how much he has or will give to charity or what he thinks of the lower classes). There is one reason why Nicholas' wealth is important, and that's structural and generic: the more someone has, the more can be taken from them. This is a movie that takes everything from its character; it is one long fall from a great height (a visual theme in the film). Giving him everything lets him fall all the farther. It's the same principle behind the use of aristocratic characters in tragic drama, tho' The Game is no tragedy.

User avatar
DarkImbecile
Ask me about my visible cat breasts
Joined: Mon Dec 09, 2013 6:24 pm
Location: Albuquerque, NM

Re: The Game (David Fincher, 1997)

#130 Post by DarkImbecile » Thu Dec 11, 2014 4:33 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:I think Nicholas' wealth is a misleading signifier here. People are bringing their own politics to it (eg. irrelevant and unknowable details like how much he has or will give to charity or what he thinks of the lower classes). There is one reason why Nicholas' wealth is important, and that's structural and generic: the more someone has, the more can be taken from them.
This is dead on; I'm as supportive of the guillotine-the-rich mindset as anyone, but I don't feel like his wealth (or hunger for it) is targeted as a defining character flaw in this film the way it is in something like Wolf of Wall Street. If anything, as flyonthewall says, it's seems to be a burden whose benefits he doesn't even register or enjoy anymore.

Also, if in fact Nicholas is meant to be a stand-in for the audience in the metaphor of game-as-cinema, as I argued above, then his privileged position mirrors the aloof privilege a viewer enjoys that must be overwhelmed or subverted for any film to break through to something meaningful.

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: The Game (David Fincher, 1997)

#131 Post by Mr Sausage » Fri Dec 12, 2014 8:16 pm

swo17 wrote:A question: Many of Fincher's films have tricksy or gimmicky endings, and The Game is certainly no exception. It obviously isn't a very realistic ending, but that's not the only criterion on which these things can be judged. How well do you think it works in the context of the world set up by the film? Does it take you out of the film, as a scene that finally demands too much suspension of disbelief? Or does the fantasy of what preceded it set the stage for a world where even this ending is possible (or even necessary)? And what about the ending improves upon or perhaps pales in comparison to the endings of other Fincher films?

(Note: If you're discussing the ending to anything other than The Game (and especially Gone Girl!) please do so in spoiler tags that identify which movie you're spoiling.)
In terms of tricksy or gimmicky endings, the one that works best for me is Seven. I'm surprised it was singled out above as one of the least satisfying as it's actually the least tricksy of his left-field endings. It's merely unexpected rather than a trick for a single reason: it does not re-contextualize everything you've just seen. Fight Club, Gone Girl, and The Game construct realities that are replaced with different realities once a crucial detail is revealed. Credibility has to be strained a bit to make this possible. But with Seven, everything we knew up to that point remains the same; new details have just been added to it.
SpoilerShow
And all we have to believe is that John Doe is capable of finding someone's address, removing a human head, mailing a box, and using leverage to get the police to take him somewhere. This is the least complicated section of his inhumanly intricate plan.


Fight Club and Gone Girl are more debatable (tho' I'm personally willing to go with them), but The Game allows for its ending from quite early on. The whole movie is a series of re-contextualizations. The reality of any given situation in the movie is perpetually questioned or undermined, beginning with Nicholas being rejected from participation in a game. There is a crucial scene where the game does something you'd think it ought never to do if it wanted to be successful: it gives itself away. Nicholas goes through that whole thing with the choking man, the police, the ride in the ambulance, all for the intricately constructed reality of it to evaporate in moments. There are two reasons for this: locally, to get Nicholas to believe in Christine, as she does not vanish and therefore seems to have more reality. But more generally: to disrupt Nicholas' ability to believe in any reality and therefore induce a state of paranoia. Any reality, even that it's 'just a game', can be questioned away because there are no stable contexts, just constant stimulus.

So the final re-contextualization is just one in a long line of them. The sheer precision of it is implausible and requires that the characters (and life itself) behave more like pieces in a game than humans--tho' I've seen enough Derren Brown specials to believe that humans can be manipulated with concerning ease and precision, and the whole thing just adds to the paranoia anyway. But the ending plays no less fair than any of the other re-contextualizations that have gone before. If you've accepted the premise, it's a logical extension of it. And in terms of the movie's themes, it goes from death to life in a symbolic rebirth (technicians cleaning him off and pulling him out of a membrane and all).

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: The Game (David Fincher, 1997)

#132 Post by Mr Sausage » Fri Dec 12, 2014 8:45 pm

Oh, and at the risk of starting off a dreaded listathon...I'm going to indulge myself and make a list to give a sense of where I rate The Game. I tend to divide up Fincher's career into three arbitrary tiers. The first either are or approach masterpieces / top films in their genre. The second ranges from 'masterful' to 'highly enjoyable but crucially flawed'. The third are outright misses.

Top Tier
Zodiac
Seven
The Social Network

Second Tier
Fight Club
Panic Room
The Game
Gone Girl
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Third Tier
Alien 3
Benjamin Button

There are three wild cards: Fight Club hovers a bit between 1 and 2 for me. I used to rate it very highly, but I saw it again a few days ago and didn't like it as much as I used to, so I've bumped it down a bit. That said, I still appreciate all of its strengths and it's lingered in my mind the last few days. It could move a bit, I feel. Gone Girl I just saw today. I'm not really sure what I think. I've moved it around, but I'm not satisfied with wherever I place it. Alien 3 is unusual because the theatrical cut is bad but the workprint cut is rather good. I almost want to list it twice, but that's weird so I've just found an unhappy medium for one listing.

As for the others, I just watched Panic Room for the first time since it came out and it's an inch perfect thriller. It's not more than what it is, but it is so, so good at what it does. Really impressive. The Game has always left me a bit cold; I admire it a lot, but it doesn't totally involve me. Dragon Tattoo is really involving, especially on a character level, maybe more so than any others in tier 2. But its structure is just so awkward. Benjamin Button is a technical feat with a central character who cannot generate drama with his personality, only his condition. I didn't like it.

User avatar
flyonthewall2983
Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2005 3:31 pm
Location: Indiana
Contact:

Re: The Game (David Fincher, 1997)

#133 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Fri Dec 12, 2014 10:51 pm

Top Tier: Zodiac. I have all but one of his movies on DVD or Blu but this one is head and shoulders above the rest for me.

Second: Everything after Benjamin Button. I think he's doing some of his best work now that comes at least very close to equalling Zodiac. I actually much prefer his Girl With The Dragon Tattoo over The Social Network, but by a thin margin.

Third: Se7en, The Game, Fight Club, Panic Room. Those films feel very strongly attached to the time and place they came out in. While very good, I see them more now as building blocks to the greatness that would come later.

Fourth: Alien 3 and Benjamin Button. I can't say I hate either one, but in either case you don't see much development of his style. Why that is in his entry of the Alien franchise is stuff of Hollywood legend now, but Button feels off the mark and at times like someone else was directing. Then again it's been a good while since I've seen it so maybe a re-watch would be necessary to validate that point.

User avatar
Drucker
Your Future our Drucker
Joined: Wed May 18, 2011 9:37 am

Re: The Game (David Fincher, 1997)

#134 Post by Drucker » Sat Dec 13, 2014 2:44 pm

I just watched this for the first time, and it went in a different direction than I expected based on what I'd read. I expected much more what Knives has sort of described: a bit of a political metaphor about the depravity of the rich. (Knives, in this particular thread, isn't where I got this notion from though). There's a darkness in the "tentative" nature of the ending for me. Where we don't know if Michael Douglass has changed at all. In those early scenes where people keep collapsing and he's not helping...does one really get the sense after playing the game he would now go back and help a man dying on the street?

There are a lot of good points made in this thread, so rather than just yup them all, I want to bring up an observation I've had.

Sausage you remarked about control and I wonder about the contrived looking nature of the movie. In other words, it always seems like, as a viewer, that you are on a film set to me when you are in the city. It's as if once we leave the gates of the safe mansion, we are in a film set. This was most apparent to me as Douglass first really "enters" the game, when he gets the waitress fired and leaves the restaurant. As they are running from the security guards, once they has escaped the elevator, running across city buildings, I'm immediately reminded of the scene where they first encounter John Doe in Se7en. This was apparent enough to me that I had this thought while watching it.

Now as I reflect further, there seems to be a great deal of film within a film to this. One thing Fincher's films generally avoid is that ploy where right before the climax, our hero reaches their lowest point. Only in this film and Fight Club do I really feel like there is someone reaching as low as life goes before they surge back in the finale (and how much lower can you go then buried alive in a foreign country?)

How much of the world is truly constructed for Michael Douglass? Is it really just the Game? Isn't all of his life a perfect game in a way? The whole world is a bit of a fantasy. Everybody in his life, from his office to the restaurant to his live-in-maid, live to serve only him.

I hope this is easy to understand. But from a stylistic perspective, this certainly feels like the least real of all the Fincher movies I've seen (never seen: Button, Dragon Tattoo, or Panic Room). Every other world, from Se7en with it's train-adjacent apartment, to the summer home for the college boys in Social Network is incredibly real and lived-in. This film? Not so much. It's a fantasy. As Sausage points out, every last detail is just perfect. They are able to scale city walls. His birthday platter is perfectly pristine. With the exception of him trying to drive through Chinatown, there seems to be very little "real" anything in his world whatsoever.
swo17 wrote:A question: Many of Fincher's films have tricksy or gimmicky endings, and The Game is certainly no exception. It obviously isn't a very realistic ending, but that's not the only criterion on which these things can be judged. How well do you think it works in the context of the world set up by the film? Does it take you out of the film, as a scene that finally demands too much suspension of disbelief? Or does the fantasy of what preceded it set the stage for a world where even this ending is possible (or even necessary)? And what about the ending improves upon or perhaps pales in comparison to the endings of other Fincher films?
The idea of seeing this as a paranoid style thriller where one never knows what is real is likely the thing will get me itching to watch this again soon (this was my first time seeing it). Going back and re-tracing what is real vs. what isn't. But the ending did sort of bum me out. The context of seeing it against Alien3 and Se7en perhaps makes it make more sense, and I like the notion of Fight Club taking this sort of ending even a step closer...but I still don't think the Game's ending makes perfect sense. The Game itself seems to show there is no particular safety net for Douglass' character. It would be seemingly easy for someone to infiltrate his circle and take everything. So the idea that all of those people really had his back all along. And there was a safety net for him every step of the way...I don't understand what lesson we are to draw.

User avatar
matrixschmatrix
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 11:26 pm

Re: The Game (David Fincher, 1997)

#135 Post by matrixschmatrix » Sat Dec 13, 2014 5:30 pm

As far as ranking Fincher goes, I more or less agree with Sausage- I hated Gone Girl, but I'm not sure the ways in which I hate it make it a bad movie (though possibly an evil one), and I still haven't seen The Social Network, but everything else more or less lines up. Though the things I love about Panic Room and Zodiac are wildly different both from one another and from the rest of Fincher's oeuvre- Panic Room is just a beautifully tight thriller, well made an no-flab, and maybe the definition of a small classic, whereas Fincher is normally more ambitious even in his genre movies, and Zodiac has a depth to it that's outside of anything else I can think of from him. I think I might actually take issue with some of the philosophy implicit in Se7en, but I don't know that any of it is important- it's a beautiful mood piece, the cynicism and fear of an amoral world of noir made into a universe where both those things are reflected in practically every surface and gesture in the film.

Actually, along with struggles for control, I think 'the fear of an amoral world' is also a throughline of Fincher's films- The Game is reassuring about it (assuming that one is meant to take the reconstruction of Douglas's character seriously), whereas Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl both ultimately conclude that the world belongs to the amoral. One could again tie even Alien 3 in here, since it (like the other alien movies) is finally a struggle between people- who are resolutely human, however flawed- and the utterly amoral xenomorphs (who are supported, ultimately, by militaries, corporations, and so forth, which are likewise shown to but ultimately amoral.)
Last edited by matrixschmatrix on Sun Dec 14, 2014 12:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: The Game (David Fincher, 1997)

#136 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat Dec 13, 2014 7:53 pm

Sorry to quibble, but I don't think Dragon Tattoo concludes that the world belongs to the amoral. I think it concludes that the system is run by the immoral and inhabited by victims or the ignorant. Amorality helps (one would guess), but the amoral do not have the power, the immoral do. It's only by imagining a impossibly capable heroine that this system can be combated, and even then her capabilities are focused by her own heavy share of victimization. This is a more polarized movie than Fincher tends to make; there is a clear opposition of good and evil. This comes from the source material, I guess.

The Game, tho', sure makes a lot of rousing Nicholas out of his self-imposed apathy.

User avatar
matrixschmatrix
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 11:26 pm

Re: The Game (David Fincher, 1997)

#137 Post by matrixschmatrix » Sat Dec 13, 2014 10:40 pm

That's fair, I suppose- (spoilers for both GwtDT and Gone Girl)
SpoilerShow
for all his apparent passivity and the sense that he is acting on programming received as a child, Skarsgård is an actively evil person, rather than a passive and uncaring force of nature or capital. Though I think Mara's character is meant ultimately to be a neutral presence who is more or less coincidentally fighting an evil one, rather than a figure of good (though I don't know that I agree), and Craig's is meant to be well intentioned but so hopelessly bumbling and incompetent (compared to the superhuman Mara) that he would be utterly helpless without his Ariel to help him.

I thought at the time that Gone Girl was a sort of reversal of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in which women were the victimizers rather than the victims, but I'd forgotten the additional parallel that in both, a figure who has disappeared to the world has actually disappeared on purpose, and is in hiding. Given that they're adaptations of totally unrelated books, the degree to which the one acts as an answer (and to me, a dispiriting one) to the other is pretty remarkable.
Come to think of it, The Game seems like it's unusual in Fincher's canon for being more or less entirely unconcerned with issues of gender, constructions of masculinity, and victimization between the genders - the other two that come to mind there are Zodiac and Se7en, but they both have key elements that relate there. The only way I can think of to apply those issues to The Game is in terms of the burden of being the family patriarch upon Douglas- the fact that the's the elder brother is key there, as he seems to feel the weight of inheritance (in more than one sense of the word) rather keenly. That said, it's not hard to imagine his character being played by a woman with only minimal changes in the actual happenings of the movie (though some of the implications would be different, and it might take on an unwonted women-shouldn't-be-in-the-workplace vibe.)

User avatar
zedz
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

Re: The Game (David Fincher, 1997)

#138 Post by zedz » Sun Dec 14, 2014 4:18 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:
swo17 wrote:A question: Many of Fincher's films have tricksy or gimmicky endings, and The Game is certainly no exception. It obviously isn't a very realistic ending, but that's not the only criterion on which these things can be judged. How well do you think it works in the context of the world set up by the film? Does it take you out of the film, as a scene that finally demands too much suspension of disbelief? Or does the fantasy of what preceded it set the stage for a world where even this ending is possible (or even necessary)? And what about the ending improves upon or perhaps pales in comparison to the endings of other Fincher films?

(Note: If you're discussing the ending to anything other than The Game (and especially Gone Girl!) please do so in spoiler tags that identify which movie you're spoiling.)
In terms of tricksy or gimmicky endings, the one that works best for me is Seven. I'm surprised it was singled out above as one of the least satisfying as it's actually the least tricksy of his left-field endings. It's merely unexpected rather than a trick for a single reason: it does not re-contextualize everything you've just seen. Fight Club, Gone Girl, and The Game construct realities that are replaced with different realities once a crucial detail is revealed. Credibility has to be strained a bit to make this possible. But with Seven, everything we knew up to that point remains the same; new details have just been added to it.
I'd agree with your analysis on a structural level (and the shonkiness of the plotting in Fight Club and The Game for the sake of gotcha effect really cripples those films for me), but it still feels incredibly shaky psychologically, since we have to accept that the most control-freakish OCD serial killer ever, who plans his crimes up to a year in advance so that they unfold just so, was just going to vamp the concluding crimes in his life's-work masterpiece. I just don't buy that he was leaving the last two pieces of his puzzle to chance and made up those crimes on the spot once the police started investigating the tableaux he'd painstakingly prepared.

On the other hand, this does suggest the amusing prospect of a coda in which the originally intended 'Wrath' victim discovers a half-finished death trap in his garage and just goes, "what the fuck?"

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: The Game (David Fincher, 1997)

#139 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun Dec 14, 2014 5:38 pm

Fair enough. The only rejoinders I can think of are: A. the realization that he, too, was a deadly sinner shook him enough to drastically alter everything. B. The original plan was similar enough to this, plus he already mentioned he would be upping his timeline in light of his apartment being discovered. But there is little aesthetic evidence for this.

But I'm happy with it straining plausibility considering the ending the studio was pushing for was a generic race against time to get to the apartment before the killer strikes. What Seven actually gives us is far more original and devastating, and I appreciate that in a genre thriller.

User avatar
flyonthewall2983
Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2005 3:31 pm
Location: Indiana
Contact:

Re: The Game (David Fincher, 1997)

#140 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Wed Jun 03, 2015 4:52 pm

DarkImbecile wrote:This is dead on; I'm as supportive of the guillotine-the-rich mindset as anyone, but I don't feel like his wealth (or hunger for it) is targeted as a defining character flaw in this film the way it is in something like Wolf of Wall Street. If anything, as flyonthewall says, it's seems to be a burden whose benefits he doesn't even register or enjoy anymore.

Also, if in fact Nicholas is meant to be a stand-in for the audience in the metaphor of game-as-cinema, as I argued above, then his privileged position mirrors the aloof privilege a viewer enjoys that must be overwhelmed or subverted for any film to break through to something meaningful.
The difference between Nicholas and Jordan Belfort, and of course Gordon Gekko, is that Nicholas was born into wealth. He didn't fight for it, something those other characters scratched and clawed to get their way towards.

User avatar
flyonthewall2983
Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2005 3:31 pm
Location: Indiana
Contact:

Re: The Game (David Fincher, 1997)

#141 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Tue Jun 19, 2018 4:12 pm

matrixschmatrix wrote:
Sat Dec 13, 2014 10:40 pm
Come to think of it, The Game seems like it's unusual in Fincher's canon for being more or less entirely unconcerned with issues of gender, constructions of masculinity, and victimization between the genders - the other two that come to mind there are Zodiac and Se7en, but they both have key elements that relate there. The only way I can think of to apply those issues to The Game is in terms of the burden of being the family patriarch upon Douglas- the fact that the's the elder brother is key there, as he seems to feel the weight of inheritance (in more than one sense of the word) rather keenly. That said, it's not hard to imagine his character being played by a woman with only minimal changes in the actual happenings of the movie (though some of the implications would be different, and it might take on an unwonted women-shouldn't-be-in-the-workplace vibe.)
One reason might be is that Jodie Foster was originally cast in the role Sean Penn would play, but thought she should play his daughter instead to which Fincher and Douglas rejected. Maybe with her in play it would have been a bit more in that direction he'd otherwise take regarding those issues.

As it is, it works for me. I remember an anecdote someone told in The Breakfast Club thread about teenagers of other ethnicities and class-structures being able to relate to it on a personal level. In terms of the relationship in this film between the two brothers, some of it hits pretty deep for me despite not having a white-collar life, especially the underlying concern they seem to have for each other.

User avatar
therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: 627 The Game

#142 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Oct 31, 2019 6:26 pm

I may be late to the party on this news, but it seems like someone created a real-life version of The Game

User avatar
flyonthewall2983
Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2005 3:31 pm
Location: Indiana
Contact:

Re: 627 The Game

#143 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Thu Oct 31, 2019 11:07 pm

I don't know if there's video of it around, but Michael Douglas recreated the climax of the film as an entrance for his AFI special.

Post Reply