By Dorian Grayson
Unless you heard about it from friends, you probably haven’t heard much about “Game Night.” You may have seen the trailer and thought, as I did, that it looked like a decent comedy trailer that might have given away most of the funny parts. As “Game Night” nears the end of its theatrical run, I am here to tell you that no trailer could hold all of the films amazing jokes.
The plot is that the hypercompetitive Max, played by Jason Bateman, hosts game nights with his wife Annie, played by Rachel McAdams, and their friends. His brother, played by Kyle Chandler, is loved by everyone, but makes Max insecure as he is wildly successful. After the brother insists on hosting a game night at his house, things go wrong.
I’d hate to spoil the plot, as half of the fun is watching the twists and turns. If I told you how this movie ended, though, you wouldn’t believe me because it sounds like the ending to a different movie, but it builds properly and everything makes sense within the plot.
More importantly, though, it’s funny. Really funny. The writers have a great sense of playing what characters know against what the audience knows for dramatic and comedic tension. They also make sure to give each of the three main couples a different ongoing joke that adds to the variety and distinctiveness of the characters. I’m sure you’ve watched comedies where the punchline could come out of anyone’s mouth because they all sound the same, but this does the opposite and does it well.
It isn’t just the writing that makes the jokes land. The actors are unrelentingly incredible through the whole film. Bateman and McAdams have incredible chemistry and much of the film’s charm comes from their performances. After going from “Black Mirror” to Oscar-nominated “The Post” to show off his dramatic acting range, Jesse Plemons – as the group’s estranged ex-friend Gary – shows up to steal every scene he’s in with his screen presence and comedic timing. I’d be remiss not to mention Billy Magnussen, though, as his character would be so easy to make unlikeable and repetitive, but he brings a sincerity and puppy-dog nature to the role that keep him sympathetic and laughably pathetic.
The directors know what they’re doing as well, and pace the information the audience gets incredibly well. In addition, the establishing shots that are usually box-standard are elevated with tilt-shift photography, which is a method of photography that makes things look like they’re in a dollhouse or, uncoincidentally, like pieces on a game board.
The film isn’t perfect, of course. The couple of colour in the film are given a single running joke — that would’ve overstayed its welcome if the payoff wasn’t so enjoyable – and are sidelined for the more substantial parts of the other couples. Additionally, some of the setup for Magnussen’s character has a “slut-shaming” attitude about it, in a way that mischaracterizes, then judges young women. It’s a comedy, of course, so hyperbolized characters make sense; it’s just that I’ve seen serious portrayals of this same type of character and it seems irresponsible to reinforce that.
If “Game Night” sounds like a good time to you but you don’t want to see it in theatres, that’s fine. This is the type of movie that kills in streaming, so look for it on Netflix after its physical release. Gather some friends and enjoy it together, because it is much better with a crowd to bounce off of.