Monday, August 11, 2008

21 (the movie, not the legal drinking age)

I just finished watching 21. At best, it was a mediocre movie, but I found it considerably less disturbing than the book on which it is based. A few years ago, I read Bringing Down the House, written by Ben Mezrich, the card counting genius himself. The movie was a much softer portrayal of the events than the book.

The movie makes Ben a sympathetic character: his father is dead, he needs money for Harvard Medical, and he is this social loser who has given up everything for the sake of his studies and joins the Vegas hustlers because the possibility of a relationship with a beautiful girl entices him. It's been a few years since I read the book, but I can't remember any mention of Harvard, and I'm pretty sure Ben's father was still around. Also--what I remember for certain--he had a steady girlfriend in Boston with whom he was discussing marriage. In the book, he leads a seemingly charmed life, and ennui and curiosity, not need for money of social acceptance, motivates him to join the group.

Also, in the movie, we don't see the true extent of his deception and immorality. In the book, we are privy to the constant lies to his parents and his girlfriend. And the group's alter egos consist of more than fake IDs. They were heavily made up, and occasionally assumed different ethnicities. The part of the book I hated the most: Ben starts sleeping around with exotic dancers and even finds one he likes and pursues, all the while maintaining the relationship with his girlfriend at home. He goes from being this good, honest kid to a promiscuous fraud in the course of a few months. The ease with which he was corrupted bothered me for weeks after I finished the book.

The movie calls these escapades "gaining life experience." I'd call it being an idiot.

Sidenote: When Ben goes to his first meeting with the Vegas group, he walks into room 4-145, which would be on the first floor of Building 4 at M.I.T. It happens that I spent much of the summer after I graduated from high school working (i.e. reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) in that hallway. The filmmakers made a reasonable facsimile, though the actual corridor is much dirtier than the one in the movie.

Current song: "A Little Doubt Goes a Long Way," Reel Big Fish (I think this song has a good message for the young Ben Mezrich and for all of us at some point. Consider the lyrics: "I gotta go, gotta go, before I do something stupid.")


JTGunslinger said...

HA~! I'm with you on this one. Although In ever read the book I thought there was something quite sinister about the movie.
I watched it with a friend and afterward we both felt it was really bad. Sure in Utah you get people who would condemn the movie for the "gambling" aspects of it and for sure because of the strip club pornography, and yet if you took those parts out it STILL felt wrong. My friend decided that it almost was a good movie... showing how his behavior destroyed his life, but in the end he gets it all back again, teaching that it WAS the road to happiness after all. I agreed but there was still something that bothered me, and then it hit me: "...lie a little, take advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; There is no harm in this; and do all these things for tomorrow we die..." What I hated the most about this movie was it's teaching revenge as a virtue to get what you deserve. So what determines what you deserve? The second thing I hated about this movie. You deserve to prosper according to your "ability". If you have greater ability then someone else you deserve more. Since you might not actually receive more in reality it is therefore "just" and "right" to use whatever means your ability provides to "prosper" including lying, gambling, cheating, stealing, beating, abusing and double crossing (digging a pit?) revenge that could have potentially lead to murder. But don't worry because its all "ok" because real justice won't prevail and the law of the jungle reins supreme.
Anyways that was my thoughts on the movie and since I don't have my own blog I'm ranting them on yours :-)

Sad for a While said...

Feel free to do so any time. It's nice to have someone say something that's not about Bramble.

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