Genre: Historical, TV
My Rating: *****
Official Rating: PG-13 (for some strong language)
Age Group: 18+
"It's the getting away with it part he couldn't live with," Dick Goodwin reveals while talking about his uncle's revelation of an affair that had happened eight years ago.
Indeed. Now, with thousands of dollars on the line, big TV men angry, and contestants claiming they were forced to "take a dive," Goodwin (an investigator from Washington) decides he's going to take TV to court, so to speak. He's sure he can prove TV is all a big scam, using evidence gained from the quiz show "21." Just when things line up, when Goodwin finally gets proof that it is indeed a big scam, he befriends one of the contestants: Charles Van Doran. And Van Doran isn't too happy about being caught in the middle of such a scam. Can he get out, and can Goodwin bring TV to court without involving his friend? Moreover, can Goodwin actually win this case?
This is TV, for goodness sake! It's entertainment!
Word of Warning:
- I apologize if this is incomplete. The movie was well done, but the actors tended to mutter and mumble some of their lines (convincingly and exactly when necessary), mixing in a thick New York accent, as well as some others, and it ended up being challenging to hear everything. I did re-watch questionable lines until I could hear what they were saying, but I may have missed something.
- Most of the problems rest in the language of the men the movie focuses on. Unfortunately, the "good guys" and "bad guys" both have problems in this area. A brief list of words used: d*** it, s*** (2x), f***ing, bulls*** (2x), Godd*** (4x). Someone also chuckles "God" while making a joke/laughing at someone, in upsettingly good humor.
- A brief shot of a televised passionate kiss (we're quite aware it's meant to be passionate, but we barely see more than a few seconds of it).
- A wife briefly mentions the word "sex" to her husband before kissing him, though it doesn't seem like she's suggesting that particular course of action at the moment. Hard to tell with their accents and her whispering.
- An angry Jewish character mutters, "Put me in an isolation booth and pump cyanide into it."
- The film rests on a big moral dilemma which puts money up against honesty (not cheating in the quiz show), or value for education against honesty. Characters struggle with this along the way. The one character who remains true to his values is Goodwin, though he does toe the line when he decides to keep Charles out of the spotlight.
- An angry Jewish character mutters, "A big uncircumcised putz is on the cover of Time magazine."
- In an attempt to explain preparation, someone says, "You don't go hunting in your underwear."
- A brief shot of a man's wife with her shirt unbuttoned, showing her bra. They are apparently alone (son upstairs practicing his drums) and when a visitor stops by she shrieks, hastily buttons up, and offers to serve them. We do not get any indication that there was any sort of sexual interaction between the wife and the husband before the visitor stops by, and as we enter the scene with the visitor, the time the woman spends in her bra on camera is very brief. (Had it not been for this scene, I might have given the movie with a 16+ age group)
- Men wear boxers in their homes.
- Goodwin is well aware that Charles was fed answers for the quiz show, just like the other contestants, but decides to keep this a secret and out of his court case.
I'm turning into Stacy, only not nearly as philosophically deep :) Honestly, this movie had some good points that just can't go unmentioned.
First, fatherly support. Charles' father is a very famous man, and Charles seems to find this almost suffocating, wanting to make a name for himself that is not his father's ("Are you related to Mark Van Doran?"). When Mark finds out what his son did (cheating on the quiz show), he is visibly shocked and horrified. Still, he supports his son's decision to come clean, accompanying him to court to give him support when Charles requests it.
Charles spends the entire movie struggling with his moral dilemma. Finally, he does manage to do the right thing. Consequently, he tears his entire life apart, but, he says, he feels "relieved." His testimony to the court is one focused on the soul searching he has been forced to do as a consequence of his actions, and it is very touching.
Goodwin sticks the whole thing through, refusing to give up even when everyone is pretty sure they've thrown him off the trail. He doesn't take "no" for an answer, fighting on to find out the truth. He says he doesn't want to point fingers or bring any one person down, he just wants the truth. At one point, he waivers in his dedication, struggling with his friendship to Charles. Goodwin's wife yells at him for this during an argument, saying that he's twice the man anyone (including Charles) is, and he should stay that way.
And last, but far from least (is that not the most cliché phrase possible?) is Goodwin's little story about his uncle. He tells the story to Charles when Charles is struggling with his moral dilemma. It turns out Goodwin's uncle revealed to his wife he'd had an affair with another woman--eight years ago. Yes, while they were still married, but eight years ago. Charles is confused, wondering why on earth the confession if the uncle got away with it. Goodwin explains, "It's the getting away with it part he couldn't live with."
I admit I usually find movies like this boring. I like action, a bit of romance thrown in, and if it's fictional, I don't care. Factual stuff does catch my attention from time to time, and I admit I do like the occasional documentary.
This, however, was different. This was the true story of an investigator taking on TV because of how it scams the viewers. The contestants of "21" would be given the answers ahead of time (that is, only the contestants that the producers knew would bring up ratings and product sales), then coached in how to deliver them for the best possible show. The innocent Americans watching "21" had no idea this was happening and Dick Goodwin decided to take on "21," as well as TV as a whole, for the great big scam it was running.
He failed. "21" was beaten, sort of, but the rest of TV got away. That's easy to see in the shows that we view now.
But the journey Goodwin took to prove "21" was a scam and his own personal struggle, along with Charles' personal journey, was incredibly interesting to follow. I found myself completely hooked by the movie and unable to look away.
It also made me wonder: what would happen if we took TV to court today? Would anybody even care that it was all a big scam?