Game Night

by Toby Woollaston

gamenightNow here’s a film that goes down like a churro dunked in chocolate sauce. And like that alluring sugar-coated doughy Spanish treat, Game Night is a film with zero nutritional benefits but sooo easy to consume. No subtexts, no heavy messages, it keeps its mood light and its subject matter dark—it’s a cheerful black comedy, if you will.

The film centres around a married couple, Max and Annie, whose weekly game nights provide a release for their unbridled competitiveness. Their failure to conceive a much wanted child provides the nexus around which the film explores their relationship. Max’s sperm mobility is lacking, which only adds to the inferiority complex he has in relation to his brother, Brooks. Played by Kyle Chandler (Argo, Manchester by the Sea), Brooks is a highly successful entrepreneur, a winning risk-taker, and is everything Max isn’t. When Brooks invites Max’s friends over, offering “a game night to remember”, the film shifts gear and begins to take great delight in blurring the lines between what is “the game” and what is real.

Max is played by the affable Jason Bateman (Office Christmas Party). I’ve always considered Bateman to be a male Jennifer Anniston, average, likeable, and very much the “everyman”. Bateman’s typecast roles often deliver a feel-good comedy schtick that, for all its “sameness”, is surprisingly funny. Rachel McAdams (The Notebook, Spotlight), who often seems to fly under the radar, gives a pitch-perfect performance as Annie, offering comedic moments that highlight what an underrated talent McAdams is.

But the surprise performance is Jesse Plemons (Black Mass) as Gary, the creepy serial killer-esque neighbour, who wants in on game night. His socially awkward pauses and off centre comments are a delight to watch and provide the film’s high watermark.

Game Night brings some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments and thankfully stops just shy of being outrageously silly (although it gets fairly close at times). It doesn’t elevate itself to the comedy classics … it would need to be less churro and more creme brûlée for that, but it still packs enough comedic entertainment to get you well aboard the chuckle train.

You can see my published reviews here.