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maryann johanson | #BlackLivesMatter

The Game (review)

Age Before Beauty?

The Game (starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn) is the best movie to mess with your mind since The Usual Suspects. Early on, a character remarks that he’d love to be able to play the Game again for the first time — in other words, without knowing what’s ahead. That applies to the movie itself as well — like The Usual Suspects, a second viewing of The Game won’t be anything like the first.
The Game is a real-life Dungeons and Dragons for rich grown-ups run by a company called Consumer Recreation Services. Nicholas Van Orton (Douglas) receives a gift certificate for CRS from his brother (Penn). Van Orton is the original man-who-has-everything, an investment banker who lives in an Infiniti commercial: gated mansion, black sedan, $2000 shoes, the whole works. Oh, and he’s kind of a bastard, natch.

And then his Game begins, and suddenly the world is filled with intrigue and paranoia, and he enjoys it — until things turn nasty and people start shooting at him. The Game is much more subtle than it sounds — it wasn’t the nonstop roller coaster I was expecting, and I was delighted to find that it restrained itself where other movies might have used a sledgehammer to make a point. The ending is inevitable in retrospect but still satisfying.

Much is made of the fact that the Game is a gift for Van Orton’s 48th birthday from his brother. Michael Douglas is 53 (d.o.b. September 25, 1944), so Douglas is playing a character 5 years younger than he actually is. Normally I wouldn’t make a point of this — but The Game is the film that originally was to have Jodie Foster playing Douglas’s daughter. But Douglas didn’t want someone Foster’s age (35; d.o.b. November 19, 1962) playing his daughter — he preferred that she play his sister. Foster quit the film over this disagreement.

I bring this up because Douglas obviously has a problem with his age. He is 18 years older than Foster — he’s certainly old enough to be her father. But he got his way — Penn, 16 years younger than Douglas (age 37; d.o.b. August 17, 1960), is the brother.

Of course, siblings a decade and a half apart isn’t all that unlikely either. But men get the long end of the age stick on screen all the time. Think Jessie Royce Landis playing Cary Grant’s mother in North by Northwest — she was actually 11 months younger than Grant. Think Sally Field and Tom Hanks — they were contemporaries in Punchline in 1988, when she was 42 and he was 32; seven years later in Forrest Gump, she’s his mother. Men get paired with women young enough to be their daughters: Renee Russo (then 39) and Clint Eastwood (then 63) in In the Line of Fire and Laura Dern (then 27) and Sam Neill (then 46) in Jurassic Park. (Jodie Foster got her revenge, though — in Contact she gets it on with Matthew McConaughey, seven years younger than her.)

So instead of portraying a character with a grown daughter, Douglas gets an ex-wife young enough to be pregnant by her new husband, and a daughter who looks like she might be starting kindergarten soon. Sorry, Mike, but that kind of insecurity is a little sad.

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