Director Whitney stars us off with a brief setup of what we are about to see: he has put an ad in a local casting paper, looking for three leading men and three leading women, between the ages of twenty-one and thirty, in shape, attractive and uninhibited, to participate in the making of an independent project, which will earn one of them ten thousand dollars at the end of 72 hours of filming. How far are hundreds of starving actors willing to go to earn ten grandr In the first phase, the audition, which involves the telling of a personal story for the cameras before pairing up with another actor to do a short, scripted “scene” from the film, total strangers are willing to get naked and simulate sexual scenes for the camera and the collected group. Uninhibited is what Whitney asked for, and that is exactly he gets: hotter than an Andy Sidaris production, a few steps removed from a Vivid video. The choice of the six finalists is anti-climactic, as Whitney repeatedly went back to the same footage of these people during the long montage of hot sex scenes.
With the first phase completed and the second day beginning, the six finalists still have no idea exactly what to expect. Whitney comes out, introduces the two judges and sets up the first competitions. The men have one hour to go out to Times Square and try to convince people they meet on the street to help them get a screen role by providing a clean urine sample. Keeping with the toilet motif, the women must go to a public restroom and attempt to strike up a conversation with the person in the next stall and get them to reveal a laundry list of personal information. The guy who brings back the most urine samples, with consent forms no less, wins that round, while the woman who gets their bathroom buddies to give up the most data takes their round. From there, each male contestant pairs up with a female, and together, posing as a committed couple, con a stranger off the streets to come up to their hotel room to engage in some naked singing.
The final competition of the day begins with the men and women splitting up again. The men are to each call in three actresses who did not make the cut, to come in and do an additional “scene” from the film, a continuation of the scene used in the first audition. The winner of this round is the actor who is get his partner to get the most uninhibited during their tryout. (Naturally, this section is called “The Casting Couch.”) The ladies are set up in an apartment in lower Manhattan, where they must attempt to get a delivery boy to come into their place and get naked. To the lady who can get their visiting lothario bare fastest go the spoils.
Interspersed between each competition is a series of true confessionals between each contestant and our judges, which are meant to be shocking for their frankness and detail, a cross between the outrageousness of Jerry Springer and the intimate depth of Oprah Winfrey. And when the last competition is completed and the contestants have cried their final tear, many of those who auditioned at the beginning return to see who has been chosen the winner. More tears are shed, cold hard cash is handed out, and the fate of each contestant, as well as some of the others who auditioned, is told as the end credits roll.
Myself, I loathe calling this experience a film, since “Games People Play” is really a failed one hour television pilot padded to get away with calling itself a feature. I also loathe calling it a documentary, since it does not capture a single real moment. What we are given is nothing more than a series of situations built on lies and deception, with the biggest deceit saved for the final moments. I’m no fan of the manufactured “veracity” of reality shows, and “Games People Play” did little to help sway me that I might be wrong. These types of situations are, to me, nothing more than opportunists taking advantage of desperate individuals, for their own financial gain. A Survivor may earn a million dollars for their time in “the wild,” but we know that is a mere drop in the bucket compared to ad revenue the producers and the network made. What happens over the course of the 99 minute running time here is hackneyed, uninspiring, disgraceful and thick, just like what is on network television any night of the week, only with plenty of uncensored, free flowing flesh.
This is not to say the endeavor is a complete waste. We are introduced to two charming young performers, Joshua Coleman and Sarah Smith, whose likeable appeal stands above the other challengers, and who hopefully are able to use this opportunity to springboard into better career situations. It is not accidental that, of the six players here, Coleman and Smith will soon be seen in the next edition of the game, as the judges of the recently completed “Games People Play: Hollywood,” or that the perky blonde Smith is featured front and center in the ads, while the perky blonde Coleman rises head and shoulders above everyone else. (A third segment, based in the Bible Belt, is forthcoming.)
If this type of entertainment is your cup of tea, you will likely be amused here. … solely because of the allure of Coleman and Smith. Hopefully, director James Ronald Whitney will return to the documentary work of his previous films “Just, Melvin” and the Emmy-winning “Telling Nicholas,” where his strong talents as a storyteller lay.Rating: D