Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Keepin' It Unreal [Reviews: The Game and The Joneses]

Who can you trust? Are the people around you who they say they are, or are you surrounded by actors playing their part? I present two films that prove you don't need Matrix or Source Code high-tech wizardry to take a hammer to your perception of reality.

The Game - a David Fincher classic from 1997 - stars Michael Douglas as Nicholas, a successful, bored superbanker drawn into a mysterious real-life roleplaying game. The Game is often quoted as a precursor to Alternate Reality Gaming but this is misleading: unlike The Game's premise which is tailored to the individual, ARGs seek to draw groups of players together to cooperate in real life or online; also, unlike poor brain-frazzled Nicholas, ARG players (I generalize) like to be in on the joke. The Game re-writes the rules of reality every few scenes, upping the stakes each time.

Steve and Kate Jones (David Duchovny and Demi Moore) are The Joneses, the perfect new neighbours moving in next door with their two perfect kids: everyone they meet falls in love with the charm act. Thing is, they're actually a "stealth marketing unit" - four unrelated salespeople masquerading as a family, enticing jealous neighbours to buy into their consumer lifestyle. It's a great conspiracy theory, at most two steps away from real-world celebrity endorsement.

Cleverly, the Joneses' immediate neighbours are old-school beauty product salesfolk themselves: they are the past, defenceless and blown away by this new style of aggressive marketing. Duchovny's character, despite being a smoothly successful car salesman is new to stealth marketing and the masquerade takes its toll on all four "family" members even as the locals fall over themselves to get into ever-increasing debt. This is an intelligent film that asks the right questions of advertising: just how powerful is it? is it truly harmless? is it ethical? and, where is it going?


Monkey Migraine said...

I still The Game is an incredible and underrated movie, one that hasn't been matched before or since. Never saw The Jones, but that sounds like a good movie, too.

Sci-Fi Gene said...

Agreed, I was really impressed by The Game.