I thought the characters were incredibly well-written, and the whole story was great as well. It's just an really engrossing film - we get as sucked into the story as the main character does. I was so happy that no one I knew told me anything about the plot, too. If you haven't seen this movie yet, you should find it and watch it. I'll try to not spoil the plot, but this is a fun movie to watch without any previous knowledge. Much more exciting, I imagine.
The movie is about Margaret Ford, a psychiatrist who has written a book called Driven, which is about compulsions in everyday life. Get it? Ford? Drive? Ha! Probably a "Fix or repair daily" joke would work here too, since Dr. Ford seems to have, well, some issues. Ha! I'm done, I promise. Anyway, she has this patient who claims if he doesn't pay back some debts, he'll be killed. He even brings a gun with him to the session. She takes it from him and promises to help him. She goes directly to the con man who her patient is indebted to, Mike. She demands that he forgive the debts, and he agrees, if she does a favor for him. Margaret is quickly drawn into the enigmatic world of con men. Mike wants her to help him win a game of cards by telling him if his opponent is bluffing (she looks for a "tell" that he told her about, a little tic the man has when lying). She so believes she is right that she puts up her own money to cover Mike's bet. Mike loses. She doesn't want to write the check. The other man has a gun. Er, wait - do guns leak water? Margaret, and the viewers, realize that it was all a con, and she was the mark. But she cannot help but find herself strangely attracted to Mike, and to his lifestyle.
I feel like I have described so much, but I really haven't! The whole movie is so interesting, filled with fascinating scenes and action. Just like Margaret is drawn to the con men, so are we. We want to see their world, their tricks. how they do what they do. We can't get enough, either. I like that the whole movie is clearly filtered through Margaret's perspective. The first shot of the movie is one of her patients addressing us directly, because we are Dr. Ford, and will be, for the rest of the film. When Margaret goes to The House of Games to settle her patient's debt, we have no idea she is being conned until she figures it out. I think that this is done often in movies about cons, but it's interesting that it's brought up in the film that Margaret sort of wants to be a bad person, or maybe even a victim. Is Mamet saying something about us, I wondered? I felt about as obsessed with Mike and the conning as Margaret did - am I really that different?
I really just love the world that Mamet created. In some ways, it doesn't feel like ours. The characters speak a little oddly, a little deliberately, but it works so well here. I was so engrossed in the movie, I just bought into everything that happened. Ebert tries to pinpoint the oddness of the dialogue, writing, "Mamet's dialogue starts with the plain red bricks of reality, and mortars them into walls that are slightly askew. Nobody uses a word you don't know. They like vulgarities and obscenities and cliches. But the dialogue is rotated into a slightly new dimension; it is mannered a little, and somewhat self-consciously assembled, as if the speaker is dealing with a second language or an unrehearsed role" (Great Movies II, CITE). They just sound...different. It never took me out of the movie, though. This was their world, their story, and I was just happy to experience it.
I think much analysis could be done on this movie. I have been doing some just while I was trying to write this post. Most of it would just spoil the whole movie, though, and as much as I want to talk about Freudian slips and man hair, I want to skip it for the sake of this blog. I would so much rather people who haven't seen the film go out and see it without having the whole thing ruined for them a head of time. It's a great movie, and really a masterful work. I guess I just wanted to say that it is not only well-written, it has a really interesting meaning and message behind it, which I like a lot.
I want to write more, but I don't want to ramble. Go see this movie! If you haven't seen it in a while, it's worth a revisit. I just feel so excited about it. I love the unique perspective this movie has, and the brilliant dialogue. I love the feel of Mamet's work. It just feels so right to me. I'll stop babbling, let me know if you see this!
Have any thoughts on House of Games? Share them with me in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on House of Games
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