The Game (1997)
January 20, 2015 10:58 AM - Subscribe

CRFC9: Nicholas Van Orton is a "man who has everything", but who seems to be missing a key piece of himself. On his 48th birthday, his wayward brother Conrad shows up for dinner, and gives Nicholas a card that's good for one free session with Consumer Recreation Services. And so begins The Game.

This is the 9th installment of the Constructed Reality Fan Club. The constructed reality in this case is the complex game that Nicholas finds himself playing, which bends the boundaries between play and reality.

The Game is not currently available for free on any streaming service, but you can find a copy at a local library.

The original NYT review, which praises Fincher's skill with visual style, if not his skill with characters.

The A.V. Club writes about the implausibility of the plot, and why that may not matter so much.

Salon writes about the enduring appeal of the film, even though it didn't gain much attention near its release.

posted by codacorolla (15 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Interesting that it would get labeled as "enduring". A friend and I had this conversation after I rented it:

Friend: did you like it?
Me: Yes.
F: Did you want to watch it again?
M: No.

More than 10 years later I still have a favorable opinion of it, but I don't really want to watch it again either, and it's funny that my friend knew that it would be like that almost immediately. The ending is twisty enough that I'm just not interested in it. But then, you could say just about the same thing for Fight Club, which I'll watch any time.
posted by LionIndex at 11:50 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

I watched this for the first time for a film class, and enjoyed it, and then watched it again for the second time for this club. I think it does hold up, although my opinion has changed a little. The first time I watched it I saw it as a sort of straight faced redemption story about a detached miser who has very little humanity left.

This time through I was struck by the satirical nature of that so-called redemption. His redemption is a cash intensive vanity that effects the lives of hundreds of people (although you could argue also employs hundreds of people). The personal happiness and fulfillment of a single man, who's had a pampered lifestyle, is the paramount importance of the film. An entire fake world is created just to give a single person's life meaning. I agree with the Salon article, that the movie seems silly because it is (in part) satire. In a modern age of the top percentile being served by the lower 99, and their whims and desires effectively driving the economy, I think it's actually pretty good satire. The fact that Caine's character doesn't seem much changed after his fantasy crisis is an indication of the futility of the whole thing.

It's also interesting that other people routinely go through the same process. Imagine that. A world where billions of dollars in capital are spent constructing fantasy worlds to make the super rich feel good about being super rich. It's insanity, if you follow a few of the logical conclusions that the film leads you to. It's also not so far off what our own reality is.
posted by codacorolla at 1:59 PM on January 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

It's on HBO Go right now, for what that's worth.

I love this movie. My favorite little moment is a scene where Van Orton is going to his (brother's? girlfriend's?) apartment to get some help, and as he waits for someone to answer the door, there is an ambulance siren off in the distance. He gives this momentary twitch, and looks intently in the direction of the sound. That's what sold it for me. He's so completely wrapped up in The Game that even the slightest surprise is a threat. I have always hoped that the siren was just ambient noise, and Douglas improvised the reaction, but now that I know Fincher, I have to assume it was intentional. In any case, I'm going to watch it again for sure.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:56 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I saw it in 1997. Loved it. Van Orton slowly melting down, the scene with the briefcase, great stuff.
posted by mlis at 8:55 PM on January 20, 2015

This is one of those movies that, if I stumble upon it while flipping through the channels, I'll stop and watch. It's nicely entertaining. The skewering of the wealthy is pretty satisfying...right up until it's revealed this is just a fantastically detailed game that only the super-wealthy can afford, and they are now back in their super-entitled little world, sipping bubbly. Then, I'm kind of "Fuck these fucks."
posted by Thorzdad at 5:51 AM on January 21, 2015

I saw it again just recently, and, on my second viewing, it played as comedy. A pretty good comedy, too.
posted by maxsparber at 9:47 AM on January 21, 2015

This reminds me -- wasn't there some sort of real-life "The Game" thing in the works several years ago? I remember reading about an application to some kind of performance art group that would have them come to your town, interview all your friends and family, formulate a detailed psych profile, and then stage some kind of elaborate interactive experience designed to affect you on a deep personal level. No clue if it ever actually amounted to anything, though. (Unsurprisingly, googling variations on "the movie the game in real life" isn't very fruitful.)
posted by Rhaomi at 7:08 PM on January 21, 2015

There was Majestic back in 2001, but that's not what you are thinking of. I know what you mean, but I can't put my Google fingers on it either.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:09 AM on January 22, 2015

Do you mean The Jejune Institute? I found the description intriguing, but after I saw the (poorly made) documentary about it, I was a bit disappointed. It all became a bit too meta to be perceived as real.
Anyway, came in to say that The Game is a great movie indeed.
posted by ouke at 3:31 PM on January 22, 2015

Nope, this was more like 3-5 years ago.
posted by Rhaomi at 4:41 PM on January 22, 2015

Rhaomi: "This reminds me -- wasn't there some sort of real-life "The Game" thing in the works several years ago?"

An acquaintance of mine was tangentially involved in something like this. It didn't sound like it affected people much on a deep personal level, it more became a fun LARP for improv actors.
posted by RobotHero at 9:44 PM on January 23, 2015

It was maybe connected to that "theater in an apartment building" thing in NYC that I can also not remember or successfully Google?
posted by Rock Steady at 7:50 AM on January 24, 2015

It was maybe connected to that "theater in an apartment building" thing in NYC that I can also not remember or successfully Google?

Sleep No More?
posted by asterix at 10:22 AM on January 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

My earlier question was bugging me enough to post an AskMe about it -- turns out it was called Odyssey Works (the same group behind "Sleep No More," incidentally). More info here.
posted by Rhaomi at 7:32 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is my favorite Fincher film: I saw it quite a few times. I love the understated upper-class Pacific Heights environment, the house, the atmospheric memories of his tall father, the score, the Jim Feingold character: I actually love everything about it.

(There goes a thousand dollars... "Your shoes cost a thousand dollars?" ... That one did...)

I'm also glad to have found this 'Constructed Reality Fan Club' - I'll check out the other movies I have not seen there!
posted by growabrain at 6:54 PM on October 26, 2015

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