Reviews

The Game: Special Edition

4

Do you ever feel like someone is out to get you? Do you constantly look over your shoulder, insecure in your own skin, unable to connect with the authentic things in life? Do you work in publishing? Or, rather, banking?

Chances are, if you're reading this mag, you're not a 48-year-old multi-millionaire financier (but if you are, please send a cheque). Chances are, having a rich, middle-aged lead character is a key reason why The Game hasn't achieved the same devoted following as Fight Club, with Edward Norton's corporate cadaver to relate to and Brad Pitt's Adonis to dream of being.

The Game has Michael Douglas. And no one dreams of being Michael Douglas, not even Michael Douglas. But whether it's in Fatal Attraction or Falling Down, the Jowly One (as we are contractually obliged to call him) is good at showing us ourselves; fallible and needy, harsh exterior masking internal fears. The older you get, the more telling The Game becomes. It is David Fincher's mid-life crisis movie; made as he was turning 35, dealing with extreme failure (Alien³) and success (Se7en) and where it all landed him.

"There's a lot about Nicholas Van Orton [Douglas] that I relate to," he says on the commentary, of a man who spends his 48th birthday alone, reflecting on his father's suicide at that age, reflecting on a life insulated by wealth so, as Fincher says, "At least there's no new pain." The script originally had a younger lead; it was Fincher who suggested Van Orton be a latter-day Scrooge, that the gaming gift - the "experiential Book Of The Month Club" - be presented by his brother (Sean Penn), who conceived of the Super 8 flashbacks to his dad high-diving off a house (reminiscent of the daddy-didn't-love-me trauma of Peeping Tom). The themes full blown in Fight Club are embryonic here - explored with less stylistic swagger or laugh-tugging grip, but no less sincerity.

The second act's headless-chicken scuttle through dark streets is slack by Fincher standards, but Douglas' final disintegration ("I am extremely fragile right now") gives heart to the Hitchcockian wrong man scenario. The comparisons with the porcine auteur are further pushed in the commentary, where Fincher's typical insight and self-deprecation ("There's an incredibly childish aspect to the movie"; "a close-up is an underlining of something") nestle with a frank discussion of his attitude to actors ("You're the oboe, but I'm the conductor...").

Comments from key crew and Douglas are cut-in occasionally, which is largely a distraction, but does reveal Kirk's son to be endearingly unsure of himself as a performer. Other extras include B-roll footage (with commentary, some of which overlaps with the main feature), storyboards and an 'alternate ending' which amounts to 60 seconds of Douglas strolling down a street. There isn't the care and devotion of the Se7en or Fight Club Special Editions, but if you're interested in filmmaking craft, there's gristle here, while the main feature retains its power to needle and unnerve. The Game is still worth replaying.

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