Movie of the Day – Quiz Show

People who know me, well enough I guess, know that I love trivia.  I help organize a trivia competition at work, take part in trivia games when applicable, but all around I guess I just feel the need to use this hodge podge of knowledge that I have accumulated over the years.  Whether it is about pop culture, history, science, or even movies (my favorite), I enjoy a good intellectual workout from quizzes and trivia.  So today’s selection was an easy one, not only is it about a the television show “Twenty-One” but also about the scandal that took place behinds the scenes of the show.  The movie also has incredible performances from Ralph Fiennes and John Turturro which also makes for an enjoyable experience.  So why is this a favorite movie of mine?  (You don’t have to guess honestly)

The movie is about the game show “Twenty-One” and the behind the scenes power play to boost ratings and appease the advertisers.  The movie centers on two contestants in the game show.  Reigning champion Herb Stempel (John Turturro) is at the end of his popularity and the network is needing a new face to get some more ratings.  The producers of the show find a charismatic professor from Columbia named Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes).  The producers want him to win so they agree to rig the show so that Charles beats Herb.  Charles refuses, so they lean on Herb to essentially take a bullet for the show.  On the show, Herb misses his question and that allows Charles to win the game by answering a question he previously answered behind the scenes.  While Charles becomes the new face of the show, a young lawyer named Dick Goodwin (Rob Morrow) goes to investigate claims about cheating on the television quiz show.  Goodwin is now determined to bring the truth to light, no matter what it costs to those involved.

Quiz Show is a slow, methodical movie.  While the premise of some guy investigating the facts about show rigging seems more yawn inducing, the way the movie plays out and is paced is great.  The investigation is pumped up in the movie, rather than how it actually played out in real life, but the way it uses the slow building tension mirrors the tension that the contestants face during the game show.  It is a nice parallel with what happens on the show and what happens outside of it.  It’s interesting getting to look at the rationale that the producers and advertisers use to manipulate not only the contestants, but that of the viewing public.

Aside from the story, the acting by Fiennes and Turturro is incredible to watch.  Turturro in particular plays the neurotic, unlikeable Herb Stempel very well.  He is vindictive and doesn’t care if exposing the truth of the show will harm the participants.  He is uncharismatic, but you in some way sympathize with the dilemma he is placed in.  Ralph Fiennes is wonderful to watch as his character is just a man with a moral dilemma.  While he enjoys the success that he has received from the game and while brilliant in his own right, he bends to the will of the producers as they make the case for him to cheat.   Loyalty is what makes up a lot of his character, as he ends up going down with the ship as the movie draws to a close.  He had many outs in the movie and could have gotten out when he could, but he choose to stand his ground.  The best aspect of Fiennes’ acting comes during one of his showdowns on the game show, where you see him agonize over the question and profuse sweating from his nervousness is method to watch.  Without having to say anything, he conveyed exactly what he was feeling and we as an audience can see and feel that emotion.

This might not be everyone’s cup of tea.  I mean it is slow, it’s not action oriented and frankly it can drag in some parts.  But the movie is slow and methodical, while being brutal about their portrayal of all those involved in the rigging of show for ratings.  No one really comes out clean in the end, so the payoff of the movie might be what you are looking for.  Give it a view on Netflix, especially if you are a fan of Turturro who puts on a great role for this film.

About Nick
I am just another blogger putting his thoughts into a website. My love is movies so most of my musings will be movie related. I work as an online marketer for an advertising company and when I am not earning a paycheck, I moonlight as a vigilante film blogger.

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