Saturday, December 15, 2018

Game Night

Directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein and written by Mark Perez, Game Night is the story of a group of friends whose night of fun becomes trouble when it turns into a real-life mystery involving burglars as the line of reality and fiction starts to blur. The film is a dark comedy in which a simple night of games and fun involving a group of friends turn into a nightmare while they wonder if they’re still playing a game or if it’s real. Starring Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury, Kyle Chandler, Michael C. Hall, and Jesse Plemons. Game Night is a wild yet exhilarating film from John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein.

A couple who holds a game night with their friends is invited by the man’s older brother about a mystery game where the lines of reality and fantasy start to blur with many wonder if there’s real criminals involved and all sorts of shit whether it’s really a game. That is the film’s premise as screenwriter Mark Perez play into this couple in Max and Annie Davis (Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams, respectively) who love to play games and always compete with others yet they’re dealing with having to grow up as they both want a child. Yet, Max is stressed due to the fact that his older and more successful brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) is in town who always find a way to beat Max in any game. When Brooks decide to hold a game night in his home, Max and Annie bring their friends in Kevin and Michelle Sterling (Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury, respectively), Ryan Huddle (Billy Magnussen), and his date/co-worker Sarah Darcy (Sharon Horgan) for the game.

When Brooks reveals what the game is, the ideas of reality and fiction blur where everyone at first thinks they’re playing the game. Along the way, some personal issues would emerge for the players as they also become confused into what is real and what is fiction. Even to the point where Max learns that Brooks is involved with some criminal activities as it raises more questions about Max’s own issues with himself and questions into about wanting to be a father. All of the trouble and confusion forces Max and Annie to turn to their neighbor in the cop Gary (Jesse Plemons) whom they haven’t invited into the game nights due to his socially-awkward behavior and the fact that his wife had just left him. Gary’s involvement would only add more chaos as it relates to the blur of reality and fantasy.

The direction of John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein does have elements of style in some scenes yet much of it is straightforward in terms of the visuals. Shot on location in Atlanta, the film does play into suburban world that Max, Annie, and their friends live in as opposed to the more upper-class home that Brooks live in along with the world of the city. While there are a few wide shots to establish the locations, much of the direction has Daley and Goldstein utilize medium shots and close-up whenever there’s scenes that focuses on a couple or the entire group as they’re put into the frame. Even as they maintain the humor through the confusion of reality and fiction as the characters play on as if it’s still a game only to intensify as the story progresses. One notable sequence inside the mansion of a supposed criminal involves this unique tracking shot that goes on for a minute in one take where the players are passing a FabergĂ© egg that they’re trying to steal for the game. Even as it would unveil something much bigger that Brooks is involved him where they all have to use their skills as players to help him. Overall, Daley and Goldstein create a thrilling yet whimsical comedy about a game night that becomes a wild adventure.

Cinematographer Barry Peterson does excellent work with the film’s cinematography with the usage of low-key lights for a scene at a bar along with the exteriors set at night. Editors Jamie Gross, Gregory Plotkin, and David Egan do terrific work with the editing with its usage of rhythmic cuts to play into the action and humor as well as capturing the chaos of the game. Production designer Michael Corenblith, plus set decorator Susan Benjamin and art director Hugh D.G. Moody, does fantastic work with the look of Brooks’ home in its interiors as well as some of the places the characters go to. Costume designer Debra McGuire does nice work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward with everyone wearing casual clothing.

Visual effects supervisor Patrick David does some fine work with the visual effects as it’s mainly set dressing for some big set pieces in the film that include its climax. Sound designer Cameron Frankley and sound editor Jon Michaels do superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the humor as well as in some of the action scenes. The film’s music by Cliff Martinez is amazing for its electronic-based score that is mainly driven by 80s style synthesizers while music supervisors Manish Raval and Tom Wolfe provide a fun soundtrack that features music from Queen, Engelbert Humperdinck, Third Eye Blind, Drake, Duke Ellington, Hall & Oates, Billy Joel, April Wine, Hampton Hawes, and Dirty Streets.

The casting by Rich Delia and Tara Feldstein is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Camille Chen as a doctor that Max and Annie meet early in the film, Chelsea Perretti as a woman who runs a mystery game business, Zerrick Williams and Joshua Mikel as a couple of kidnappers, Malcolm Hughes as actor Denzel Washington, Jessica Lee as Gary’s ex-wife Debbie, and Jeffrey Wright in an un-credited cameo appearance as the FBI agent Ron Henderson. Other notable small roles include appearances from Danny Huston as a supposed crime boss named Donald Anderton and Michael C. Hall in a superb role as a mysterious figure who appears in the film’s climax. Kyle Chandler is fantastic as Max’s older brother Brooks as a man who seems to have it all and often upstages Max with his own competitiveness only to hide something much darker as it relates to the game that is being played. Jesse Plemons is incredible as Gary as Max and Annie’s neighbor who is a cop that feels left out of not being invited to game nights where he later tries to help them with a situation as it’s a low-key yet witty performance from Plemons.

Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury are excellent in their respective roles as Kevin and Michelle Sterling as a couple who are part of the game night as they deal with what is happening while dealing with issues of infidelity before they were married. Billy Magnussen and Sharon Horgan are brilliant in their respective roles as Ryan Huddle and Sarah Darcy as co-workers that are on a date though they don’t know much about each other with Ryan trying to win while Sarah is an outsider who doesn’t know anyone yet is the smartest person in the room. Finally, there’s Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams in amazing performances in their respective roles as Max and Annie Davis as a couple who are highly-competitive gamers who are coping with becoming more responsible while being lost in the game they’re playing with Bateman as sort of the straight man of the two while McAdams gets to be more lively as the two together are a joy to watch.

Game Night is a spectacular film from John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein. Featuring a great ensemble cast, a cool music score by Cliff Martinez, and a hilarious yet adventurous story. It’s a film that isn’t afraid to be out there while also being a lot of fun about a game that blur the ideas of reality and fiction. In the end, Game Night is a tremendous film from John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein.

© thevoid99 2018

1 comment:

Brittani Burnham said...

I've caught parts of this on HBO and it's usually the scenes with Jesse Plemmons and he's hilarious. I need to give this a complete watch eventually.