For one thing, and in no particular order, the cinematography looks like it's direct-to-video (in '87, which means "it looks like it was filmed through gauze"), the whole stagework looks like they recycled the decors from A Walk On A Soundstage - Among The Papier Machee, volume 8, and the make-up and blocking... good lord. Mamet's wife has that short cropped "rape & attempted suicide survivor" look sterile women and Depeche Mode wore towards the end of the decade. I suspect it actually caused Gorbachev's stain and probably the collapse of the Soviet Union to boot it looks so god awful.
The acting's worse, but that's sort of expected given all those involved still had day jobs at the time (from what I hear, mostly bussing in the same pizzeria). The screenplay however... oh my god you can't believe the atrocious, purple, literotica-level nightmare. At some point, the woman actually says to her friend "this lighter looks like someone gave it to you". They're supposedly refined edumancated women sharing a meal in an upscale restaurant (if you can suspend your disbelief in the face of their trampy outfits and trampier mannerisms). It's about as incongruous as writing the dialogue between Condolezza Rice and Michelle Obama as "Hey, can you smell whitey penis ?" "Sorry, I burped."
Then later some derp for no reason and through no internal logic flashes a pistol at the heroine (she's unconvincingly playing the shrink, he's unconvincingly playing the patient) and the only reply on everyone's lips here at MP's House of MST3K was "hey, that looks like someone gave it to you!" But no, completely impervious to its own grotesque ridiculousness the film hams right through, and she resolves the crisis exactly as illogically as it sprung up. Oh and she wrote a book, did I mention this ? I musta forgot - but they didn't, every side character makes sure to mention her damned book as if that was still an achievement in `87, with the direct result of making you think the shebang was written by someone who was very impressed with having written a book, or bad film treatment as the case may be.
And then, to crown this misery, the whole thing's read with all the voice craft of Emanuelle. Literally, the average, not the best, the average porn flick of the 80s has better voice work. I think that puts it somewhere between regional network ads and small university phone system.
But the truly sad part about all this being that the most esteemed Chris Ballas recommended this film in passing as some sort of excellent depiction of what psych work "is really like". Not the idea that he saw something in here bothers. The idea that he actually sat through more than fifteen or so minutes of this thing bothers. It jars. It is actually irks me, this thought.———
- House of Games, 1987, by the very inept David Mamet, with his incredibly inept wife and that guy that plays extras in mobster movies when they really need a lot of people for like a wedding or a funeral or something (Joe Mantegna). [↩]