Monday, June 16, 2008

Not so funny.

Funny Games is a chilling, grim, and thoroughly disturbing film. Austrian director Michael Haneke delivers a shot-for-shot remake of his own 1997 film of the same name, adding different actors for a US release.

The movie starts out innocently enough. Ann (Naomi Watts), George (Tim Roth) and their son Georgie (Devon Gearhart) are off to their weekend home in a very wealthy gated lakefront community.

Almost as soon as they arrive, their neighbor stops by with a 'friend', Paul (Michael Pitt, who is astonishingly good here), to help the two Georges get their sailboat ready. They make loose plans to get together. At the same time, another young guy - Peter (Brady Corbet) - is seen in the family kitchen asking Ann to borrow some eggs for the neighbors.

Pretty much immediately, I felt pretty strange and uncomfortable about this duo. Something just wasn't clicking.

On the way out the kitchen door, Peter drops the eggs and then proceeds to ask for more. Then he 'accidentally' brushes Ann's cell phone off the counter and into a sinkfull of dishwater, rendering it useless. Obviously a scam or set-up of some kind is underway.

Paul then shows up, admires George's nearby golf clubs, and asks to borrow one to try it out. Ann, already feeling uneasy-but doesn't want to appear unfriendly-concedes. Soon, the family dog is no longer heard barking outdoors.

When Paul returns, the two Georges are now there and the situation progresses to become the weirdest and most sadistic home invasion you've ever seen.

Peter ends up smashing George Sr.'s leg with a golf club and it all goes downhill from there.
Peter and Paul - dressed all in white, down to white cotton gloves on their hands, just want to play some games with the family. Some funny games.

Only nothing they play seems very funny to me. And there are multiple clues that lead you to believe that this is not the first time or the first family they've been 'playing' with.... And no doubt won't be the last.

All the lead actors give compelling performances, in particular Watts - who endures alot of embarressment and heartache at the hands of these two prep-school wackos.

There are even a few scenes where the lead nutjob (Pitt) actually 'breaks the fourth wall' - meaning he looks directly into the camera as if talking to us - the audience - chiding us for rooting for the victims to have a happy ending. Those scenes alone are truly unsettling. He really delivers an outstanding performance.

I'm not altogether sure what the whole point of the film was - perhaps it is just a study in suburban violence against unsuspecting folks who were minding their own business but just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I don't know. But I was on the edge of my seat as the tension levels increased throughout the course of the movie. It was downright creepy.

I liked it - in a sick, dememted, rather disturbing way.

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