Framed Documents #003: House Of Games

I think I first saw David Mamet’s House Of Games as part of the excellent BBC2 strand Moviedrome (though I could have sworn I first caught it earlier than 1993 as that list would have it). I remember being struck by the coldness of the characters, and the ever decreasing circles in which they danced, as well as the sudden explosion of emotions towards the end.

It is a film about conmen. Bestselling author and psychiatrist Margaret Ford (Lindsay Crouse) is trying to break her writer’s block, and through her efforts on behalf of a troubled patient ends up being grifted by Mike (Joe Mantegna). She becomes increasingly – obsessively – interested in the art of the confidence trick, and solicits the help of an initially reluctant Mike in pursuit of her new subject matter. That’s the set-up, now guess the result…

It plays well against the bonhomie of The Sting, it matches the darkness of The Grifters, it is fresher than Mamet’s own, later, con flick The Spanish Prisoner. Watching these four films means you can avoid wading through all twenty four episodes of Hustle, which shamelessly teefs its best bits from them. In terms of performance, Mantegna is at the Homicide end of his range rather than nudging The Godfather III.

Anyway, here’s Crouse taking down some back-of-the-napkin field notes:

The necessity of dark places to transact a dark business…

  1. Maggie said:

    I just saw this movie for the first time and I love it. It was certainly a sit at the edge of your seat movie, IMO.

    I have the version with the extras on it, interviews with Crouse, Mantegna, and a commentary with Mamet and Ricky Jay. Very interesting indeed.
    If you are a fan of Ms. Crouse, please stop on by the board. Would love to talk about this movie with others who have seen it.

  2. Which version of the DVD do you have? I have the Citerion Collection that has a commentary with David Mamet and Ricky Jay and new interviews with Lindsay Crouse and Joe Mantegna. This is an excellent version. I have been her fan for a very long time and I just now saw this movie. Can you believe it? It is so awesome. It had me glued the whole time. Lindsay and Joe were powerhouses in this film and David Mamet did a wonderful screenplay!
    I have a group for Lindsay Crouse, so if you wan to join, so we can talk about this movie at length, I would love it. We are small in number, but we need more people to get a serious talk going. This film would be a great start. To me, this is one of her BEST films!!

  3. Cheers for the comments, Maggie/LCF – sorry for the delay in publishing, Akismet hid them away 😮

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