Monday, December 17, 2007

And Starring Michael Douglas as Scrooge

A Christmas Carol has been remade on the big screen, the little screen and the stage so many times I don't care to count. And while I might argue remakes, I will also argue that A Christmas Carol is one of those stories that welcomes interpretation. Some Scrooges are more despicable. Some ghosts more scary. But the message stays the same. Humans are redeemable no matter how awful. And it's possible that you can be scared into being good. And what better time to be good than the holidays. Honestly, you can be an asshole eleven months out of the year and totally redeem yourself by being good the entire month of December. And speaking of assholes, let's talk about Nicolas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) the center character of David Fincher's oft overlooked The Game.

Nicolas Van Orton is not a nice man. But he’s not supposed to be. He is a product of his surroundings. One of the greatest creations to ever be churned out of the corporate machine. Nicolas manages investments and when the stock drops, he is a pit bull at quickly restoring confidence. He's one of the guys that you want to know is looking out for your stock, you just don't want to be friends with him. Nicolas' name could just as well be Ebeneezer Scrooge.

While Nicolas is not literally visited by ghosts, he is certainly a haunted man. The Game knows his hot buttons and pushes them often. Within hours of signing up, Nicolas is forced into one uncomfortable situation after the next. And then of course, there is the death of Nicolas' father hovering over him the entire time. His father died at a young age (the exact age that Nicolas has turned in the movie) from suicide and whether Nicolas wants to admit it or not, he's on a bullet-train down the same path. All of these things work against Nicolas, breaking him down to the man that it appears he once was. There is a hint of a nicer life in a photo of Nicolas actually smiling while he holds up a fish he has just caught. Unlike a visit from The Ghost Of Christmas Past, there are not stacks of hard proof that Nicolas is worth saving yet somehow we want him to be saved for no other reason than he is Michael Douglas. One wonders if he were just another unknown actor if we would feel the same way.

To me the greatest question raised by The Game is not how did they pull everything off. It’s whether or not a series of traumatic events can truly change a man. Can Ebenezer really be changed? It’s a good question. The Game believes so as does A Christmas Carol. Of course it helps when we know that the man in question was good to begin with. So in the next few days before Christmas arrives, give The Game a try through new eyes. View it not as a good Hitchcockian thriller, but as an interesting twist on an old holiday favorite.


Burbanked said...

DAMN but that is an amazing comparison! I love love LOVE The Game, and in many ways it cemented my admiration for Fincher. Seven is terrific, but I always want to see what a talented filmmaker will do next, if the quality is sustained or if it evolves, and The Game absolutely delivers. It's a shame it doesn't get more attention, but perhaps over time.

But seriously, Piper - this is truly a wonderful insight. I'm thinking of the way Van Orton shakes his head and signs off on the final invoice for the Game at the end of the movie - and how that parallels to Scrooge throwing the money to the kid for the Christmas goose or whatever.

Wow. Fantastic. I wish The Game would get rereleased with a better DVD.

Sheamus the... said...

i agree...AMAZING comparison.I loved The Game.

brian said...

I just can't get past the clown.

PIPER said...


I was writing in general about how much I loved The Game and the theme of Scrooge just kept coming through unintentionally so I decided to run with it.

I love this movie and am surprised it doesn't have a better treatment on DVD because if there was a movie that did, this is it. One extra would be great just to point out all the people in the lunch room that Michael Douglas passes and who they were in The Game.


Get past the clown for a great movie.

brian said...

I will screen it again. Clown be damned.

Anonymous said...

Great movies both. Excellent insight Piper, as per your usual. sF

Megan said...

Thanks Piper, I forgot about how much I liked this film. Douglas as Scrooge - brilliant!