Saturday, August 05, 2006

(POKER MOVIES) I Really Hated This One...

As I don't really have anything to new or interesting to say, here's another one of the series of posts on poker related movies that I wrote some months ago. When I first wrote this review of A Big Hand For The Little Lady, I was a little concerned about breaking the film critics' "rule" about not revealing the ending of a film in the review. How, I wondered, could I hold to that and still write an honest review when, after all, my problem with the film is the ending. Well, I reasoned, if I'm writing this to discourage people from seeing this film, then I don't have to worry about "ruining" the ending for them. Besides, as my friend Mustafa said to me a few weeks later regarding a completely different matter, "Rules are like bones, they are meant to be broken."--R"!!"T (Aug 5, 2006)
Over the course of last summer, as I strove to learn all I could about the game of poker prior to hosting my first game at my 40th birthday party, I watched quite a few poker themed movies. Some were very good and some, well, weren't, but there's one that I simply hate with an intensely burning passion. That exercise in wasted celluloid is called A Big Hand For The Little Lady.
In director Fielder Cook's 1966 film, a frontier family on their way to establish a homestead out west stop, when their wagon breaks down, in a small Texas town that is playing host to an annual high stakes poker game. While the wife, Mary, sees to the repairs, the husband, Meredith, a reformed gambler, gets into the game, playing with the money designated to buy their land, and is losing until he gets an apparent monster hand and promptly has a heart attack. While the town doctor sees to her husband, Mary takes his seat at the table. After securing a loan from the town banker to cover all bets, she wins back all Meredith lost and then some, along the way teaching the jaded old gamblers a few lessons about life, love, family devotion, and other such B.S.
Then, BOOM! the scene shifts to New Orleans and it is revealed that the "family" are con artists employed by the banker to exact revenge on the poker players for swindling him in a crooked land deal twenty years earlier. Up until that point the viewer is given no clue that the characters and the story are anything other than what they appear to be. I had invested emotionally in the characters and story as they seemed at first and when they were revealed at the last moment to be something totally different, I felt cheated, tricked and used. Twist endings are fine, but the person you should never trick is the viewer. I came away resenting this film and everyone involved with it. Except for Burgess Meredith, who played the doctor. After all, man, he was the Penguin and that makes him cool no matter what.

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