Friday, October 3, 2014

Top 34 Things I Love About The Game (that no one talks about)

“[My wife] was extremely vociferous, for instance, when she said, ‘Don’t make The Game.’ And in hindsight, my wife was right. We didn’t figure out the third act, and it was my fault, because I thought if you could just keep your foot on the throttle it would be liberating and funny. I know what I like, and one thing I definitely like is not knowing where a movie is going.” – David Fincher, Playboy (Oct. 2014)
What we have here is a very rare instance of me disagreeing with a great director who is bashing their own work. I love The Game, and I love how its intricate puzzle begins to come together in the third act. I’m very surprised Fincher has such big problems with it, but so it goes. In honor of the release of Fincher’s latest film, Gone Girl (which is fantastic, but more on that in a future post), I thought it’d be fun to dive back to one of his more overlooked movies. A film that, apparently, isn’t as liked by its maker as I once hoped. (Please note that this post contains major spoilers.)

If there’s a contemporary director who knows how to create a compelling opening title sequence, then it is surely David Fincher.

This actor playing the father (real name: Charles Martinet) is so good. The formality of his posture, the importance he gives his cigarette – you can tell this guy is bored with his own life.

I don’t know what it is about bathroom mirrors, but I love them. Every film I’ve made features at least one key scene in which a character stands in front of a bathroom mirror. So, naturally, I love that Nicholas Van Orton is introduced to us by giving himself a disapproving look in his bathroom mirror. 

Whenever I write one of these posts, I watch the movie with my high-quality headphones on. So, this is the first time I noticed that during this insert shot of Nicholas’ watch, you can just barely hear the watch ticking. The detail. Fuckin’ Fincher, man.

If you ever want a master class in framing, watch a David Fincher film. Rarely is his camera positioned in any other way than the one right way. His compositions are flawless.

Breakfast: standing up, in the kitchen, reading the paper, tie flipped over the suit. Think about how much this says about Nicholas.

It’s funny that we never refer to Fincher as a great San Francisco director, because damn if he doesn’t know how to shoot the hell out of that city. (For further reading, see Zodiac and The Social Network.)

“Oh, happy birthday, sir.”
“Thank you, Maggie.”
“I don’t like her.”

The disgusting level of entitlement Nicholas carries himself with is best discovered in the details. I love (love, love) the way he rudely orders another iced tea while eating lunch. Such an asshole.

“We’re divorced. She remarried a pediatrician, or a gynecologist, or a pediatric gynecologist.”

The grainy stock footage, the low angle, the full focus. What a haunting image.

You know who Nicholas’ maid, Ilsa, is? That’s Baby Doll, baby. (It’s really Carroll Baker, but…).

Is there a better birthday dinner for an insanely wealthy man to have?

The way Nicholas knows it’s his ex-wife calling to wish him happy birthday.

James Rebhorn. Miss this guy. The way he subtly deflates Nicholas’ ego is quite a feat. And I adore how he sells the line, “Oh… it’s a game.”

I’ve written about the physical scene in this film before, but again, only David Fincher can make a boring medical examination a thing of sheer entertainment.

Why not shoot this in extreme slow motion with insanely lengthy crossfades? Man, I miss Harris Savides.

The news anchor breaking the forth wall and talking to Nicholas is a great double take. The first time I saw this film, I didn’t know what the hell was going on.

Nicholas flipping out because his briefcase is locked.

Crash, The Game, The Rat Pack, Payback, Sunshine, The Hurricane – Deborah Kara Unger crushed it in the ‘90s.

Great production design, jarring editing, cold cinematography – you can tell everyone involved had a blast with this scene.

I know Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” is overused in movies, but goddamn if it isn’t used perfectly in this film (twice). It expertly captures the chaos of this moment.

This is a great little moment. Watch how Nicholas doesn’t wait to introduce himself to the police, he simply sees that they’ve arrived and immediately begins leading them to the CRS office. For a moment, Nicholas’ entitlement is back. If only for a moment.

Look at the composition of this shot. Study the visual texture. You think that bright “street lamp” at the top right is just there?

That fly.

This is the scene of the movie. Nicholas Van Orton, ruthlessly entitled millionaire-turned filthy beggar. I love Douglas’ defeated nuance in this moment. “Anybody…?”

Again, I’m so surprised Fincher doesn’t like the third act of this movie. I absolutely love the way the puzzle starts to come together.

This is my favorite What. The. Fuck. moment of the film. I had no idea what the hell was happening the first time I saw it.

Look everyone, Spike Jonze!

“I had to do something, you were becoming such an asshole.”

It’s always fun to try and place the “actors” from earlier in the film.

“You wanna split it?”
“Oh God, yes please. I’ll take you up on that.”

Really miss this guy.

“White Rabbit” cues back up. Douglas offers a priceless look. Again, perfection.

More “No One Talks About” lists:


  1. I wonder if That fly from The Game is related to That fly from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

  2. That is such a great film. Oh, here's something I'm sure that not many people know but there's a scene where Nicholas goes to this apartment that Christine lives in and there is this small woman there. That small woman is Linda Manz from Days of Heaven.

    1. I did NOT know that. That's awesome man. I love that Fincher those groovy little details into his films.

  3. I'm not the biggest fan. Like it's a good thriller and all, but it somehow feels lacking, especially because of the characters. They are not memorable or relatable in any way. I mean like big whoop, filthy rich guy got temporarily inconvenienced by his OTT birthday present. I am much more involved in other Fincher films, Alien 3 included. This one, I did not care what happened to anyone in it.
    My favourite part of the movie was the t-shirt. And ooooooo Spike Jonze <3 <3

    1. Hey, fair enough. I do think the overall purpose of the movie is to make Nicholas relatable in some way. I don't dig watching grossly entitled characters simply live out their lives. Stripping that entitlement away, though, is something I find fascinating.

  4. I liked it, but I didn't love it. I haven't watched it as many times as other Fincher films, so my memory of it is kind of hazy. I do remember enjoying the performances, and I really liked the editing, cinematography and production design. I would also disagree with Fincher, since from what I remember, the third act was very well done. Great post!

    1. Thanks! I do agree that The Game isn't nearly as good as Fincher's best work, but I still really enjoy it. And the third act is such a trip!

  5. I gotta side with Fincher on this one. Love the texture of the film, the look of the film, but the third act just strikes me as a poor man's episode of The Twilight Zone. Love the post anyways :)

    1. Interesting. I guess it just really works for me. But hey, we like what we like!

  6. I think it's an entertaining flick. It's not on the same level as some of other movies by Fincher, but it's sure as hell better than most mindfuck movies out there, at least it's stylish and the acting is awesome.

    I'm seriously dying to read your Gone Girl review and finding out where you'd rank it among other Fincher's movies.

    1. Yeah, I'd fully agree with your assessment. Not as good as Fincher's best films, but damn fine all the same. Just posted my Gone Girl review. Loved that damn movie.

  7. I still haven't seen it, but I HAVE to watch this. Once I see the film (soon, I promise), I'll be back to check out this post.

    1. Awesome post! This movie was bonkers. The third act is fine, considering how insane the first two acts are. I love it! I might even rank this ahead of Gone Girl.

    2. SO happy to hear that you're a fan of the film. I think it gets a lot of flak because it was released between two HUGE Fincher films. But I've always really loved it.

  8. I actually think it's Fincher's greatest film, as does the author of this fantastic article on the subject:

  9. It blows my mind that the actor playing Michael Douglas' father is the voice of Mario

  10. This is one of my favourite all time movies. However, I think Fincher may be correct in that the ending didn't seem realistic since 1. How did they know he was going to commit suicide? 2. How did know that he was going to jump? If they were wrong just 10 feet, Douglas would have landed on the floor on that hall. He could have commited suicide another way. There's just something wrong with this ending.

    1. Yep, I fully agree with you. As much as I love this movie, it doesn't nail the ending. It's always felt a bit off and incomplete to me.