People Play" Wrestles its Way to #1
James Ronald Whitney's
risqué feature "Games People Play: New York" seduced its
way to number one...grabbing the throne from Mel Gibson's
"The Passion of the Christ," which had reigned for two
The reality-esque "Games People Play: New York," a
'game film' about three men and three women vying for
a $10,000 cash prize by
performing provocative stunts, took its place on the...box
office crest, opening in Gotham...
"Aside from winning
an Emmy, it was the best professional news I had ever
received," Whitney said, "Now anyone reading this better
get his ass to the theater to see this unrated, totally
twisted little movie that was made in just 72 hours."
BY ROGER EBERT
"Games People Play: New York" plays most
of its games with the audience...As a viewer, we intuit that it is more,
or less, than it seems:
That in some sense, the whole project is a scam.
Yes, but a scam that involves real actors doing
real things while they're really in front of the camera. The premise:
Auditions are held to select
six finalists for a game-show pilot. The winner of the contest will be
paid $10,000. The actors are asked to be attractive and "completely
uninhibited," and so they are.
They're awarded points for their success at such
events as: (1) Asking complete strangers for a urine sample; (2) Having
men enact casting-couch
seductions with would-be actresses not in on the gag; (3) Having women
seduce a delivery man by dropping a towel and standing there naked; (4),
persuading strangers to join a man and woman in a "naked trio" in
a nearby hotel room, and (5) persuading a stranger in the next toilet stall
to join them in the reading of a scene they're rehearsing.
Amazingly, the movie not only finds actors willing to play these roles,
but men and women off the street who volunteer (in the case of the urine
and naked trio gags) or are at least good sports (as in the dropped towel
routine). After having been tricked into appearing in the film, they actually
sign releases allowing their footage to be used.
These episodes are intercut with sessions where a psychologist named Dr.
Gilda Carle and a publicist named Jim Caruso interview the finalists. I
have no idea if these people are real, but their cross-examinations elicit
harrowing confessions: One woman was raped at age 4 and then beaten by
her father, another saw her father murdered, a third is bulimic, a man
is a male prostitute, and so on.
The uncanny thing about the revelations at the end of the movie is that
we cannot be absolutely sure if this is all fiction, or only some of it.
The film was made by James Ronald Whitney, whose "Just, Melvin" is
one of the most powerful documentaries I've seen, about a man who abused
and molested many members of Whitney's extended family and is finally confronted
"Games People Play" proves, if nothing
else, that there are actors who will do almost anything to get in a movie.
The actors here (Joshua
Coleman, Sarah Smith, Scott Ryan, Dani Marco, David Maynard, Elisha Imani
Wilson) are all effective in their scenes, sometimes moving, sometimes
more convincing than they have a right to be...
A brilliant example of an experiment in psychological
manipulation (four stars)...it evokes a strange and horrible fascination...!"
PLAY: New York receives 5 OUT OF 5 STARS!"
"This past weekend, James
Ronald Whitney's GAMES PEOPLE
PLAY: New York had the largest per screen
totals of any movie in the United States, $12,346,
beating out Mel Gibson's The
Passion of the Christ by nearly $3,000...quite
a triumph!...GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York is
the big screen's first successful reality franchise,
one whose only predecessor was last year’s putrid The
Real Cancun. Whitney is a proud member of the
school of extreme reality nurtured out of HBO’s
New York offices by Sheila Nevins (promoted last month
to President). His 2000 documentary Just Melvin,
premiered on HBO after The Sopranos, while his Emmy-Award
winning follow-up a couple years later, Telling
Nicholas, was slotted right behind of Six Feet
PEOPLE PLAY' is a very special film from a very
original director -- grounded in the fast-track
pulse of now, but so fresh, moving, outrageous
and smart it's unlike anything you've seen before,
with enough shocks and constant surprises to knock
you right out of your shoes!"
Reed & other Critics
here to view the
EBERT & ROEPER
People Play: New York"
Air Date 4/17
Now for a seriously weird movie. "Games People Play:
New York"...Some of the movie is fake, some of it
is real, and at the end I was not absolutely sure what
was fake and what wasn't. Six actors chosen in auditions
and given outrageous assignments that involve a lot of
nudity and public embarrassment.
CUT TO A CLIP FROM THE MOVIE
ROGER EBERT V/O
That was the director, James Ronald Whitney, explaining
the challenge and Dani Marco dropping the towel. Here's
another assignment: Try to collect urine samples from
complete strangers on the street.
CUT TO A CLIP FROM THE MOVIE
ROGER EBERT V/O
Another game: Convince a stranger to make a threesome in
a hotel room.
CUT TO A CLIP FROM THE MOVIE
Although the strangers probably thought they were going
to have sex. It turns out it's going to be a music performance
in the nude. The imagination behind this film is cruel
and sadistic. Are we supposed to think of these people
as courageous, or good sports, or victims, or simply
actors who will do anything to be in a movie?
...I understand what you're saying. I think that's part
of the reason why I am going to give this movie THUMBS
UP. Because whether it's all real or fiction, you're
right it's still confusing towards the end. Like who's
playing who and what. These are real human beings who
we see on screen willing to ah, getting naked is just
the beginning, as you said with these people and there
is something fascinating about that and yeah something
very sad about that.
I wondered whether they had a lot of turndowns before they
got the people we see on screen.
I would only hope so.
I wonder how? Would you give a urine sample to a stranger
on the street?
I wouldn't even give it to a friend on the street.
No, I wouldn't give it at all...
That's just me...
But I'll tell ya, you mentioned two of these actors, I
think this Dani Marco in particular she could be a star.
I don't know if she's playing this character or it's
really her or whatever the case may be...
It left me feeling sad. At the same time I have to say
that it certainly was compulsively watch-able!
It's a unique piece of work!
"'GAMES PEOPLE PLAY:
New York" is the best independent film I have ever
"Ingenious! and the
uninhibited contestants prove to be surprisingly good actors."
far people will go for fame?" James Ronald Whitney
sets out to shoot a pilot for "the world's most
uninhibited reality show." In 72 hours, six hard-bodied
aspiring actors--three men and three women--compete for
a $10,000 grand prize by luring NYC citizens into compromising
"With GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York, filmmaker James Ronald
Whitney takes having it both ways to new heights...He
reality TV while showing total nudity...TITILLATING
and ENERGETIC...Whitney has plenty of hoops for them
through...Coleman, a personable prize-winning college
athlete, and the lovely and imaginative Smith possess
the strongest presences among the most attractive sextet,
and have been rewarded...for their efforts by having
been cast in the film's sequel, GAMES PEOPLE PLAY:
Hollywood, already in post-production."
Games People Play: New York
If anyone has earned the right to invent another goofy
reality TV series and place himself as the sadistic circusmaster
handling the flaming hoops, it's James Ronald Whitney.
Whitney's 2000 film, Just, Melvin: Just Evil, was the
rawest confessional doc of its era, a film that revealed
his grandfather to be child molester and possible murderer,
while looking at the effect Grandpa Melvin had on ensuing
generations - some of whom are just barely getting by,
living in trailer parks and succumbing to heavy drinking.
Whitney, who did a turn as a Chippendales dancer,
put his own campy overachievements as a teen gymnast and
quiz whiz under the microscope as well. He turns the camera
outward this time, in a purported pilot for a reality show
this time - offering aspiring actors and actresses the
chance to win $10,000 if they out-expose each other in
a series of exhibitionist trials that include confessing
their most traumatic moments to the camera, collecting
urine samples from passersby, and convincing strangers
to have sex with them in four minutes or less. Who's playing,
and who's getting played, is the real $10,000 question
- and Whitney excellently maneuvers the manipulations
to keep you guessing till the final credits roll.
Director James Ronald Whitney takes the reality television
craze to the outer limits in this motion picture, which at
once parodies the antics of shows such as Fear Factor and
Punk'd while pushing the envelope of both the concept and
his participants. After auditioning several hundred New Yorkers,
Whitney recruits a cast of three men and three women to perform
various stunts around the city, most of which involve nudity
or sexual situations, with the cast member who is judged
as the best walking home with a prize of $10,000. But how
far are the participants willing to go in pursuit of money
and their 15 minutes of fame? And what does their combination
of ambition and lack of inhibition tell us about the people
willing to literally bare all without the clear promise of
a reward? Games People Play: New York was the first in a
projected series of three similar films from Whitney, with
installments from Hollywood and the Bible Belt in the works.
James Ronald Whitney, 2004
|David Maynard, Joshua
Coleman and Scott Ryan,
holding Gilda Carle
TV's Candid Camera prefigured reality shows like
Punk'd and Scare Tactics...This feature-length
provocation, GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York, from
writer-director-producer James Ronald Whitney,
who began his filmmaking career with JUST, MELVIN
(2000)...chronicles the first round of "America's
Most Uninhibited Game."
...Six contestants, handpicked from a grueling audition at which they
must confess deep emotional traumas and improvise explicit sex scenes,
are...directed to accomplish certain goals and given points based on
how well they fulfill their assignments. Over a 72-hour period, the three
men and three women...must complete tasks that range from persuading
complete strangers to give them a urine sample to seducing unsuspecting
delivery boys. The most elaborate prank involves pairs of contestants
coyly enticing a stranger to their hotel room for "a naked trio" only
to reveal that what they meant was that the three of them were going
to do a hokey nude song-and-dance number.
Between rounds they're questioned by the game's judges...who encourage
them to pick at their deepest psychic scars until they bleed. Drawing
blood takes very little picking, since the contestants have a lot of
issues: compulsive-eating or sexual disorders, childhood abuse, parents
lost under traumatic circumstances, part-time hustling... the range of
dysfunction is breathtaking...and the twist ending proves that the attractive
contestants have more going for them than sheer nerve. But explaining
what they're doing well spoils the ending as surely as shouting "Bruce
Willis doesn't know he's a ghost!" at someone who hasn't seen THE
SIXTH SENSE (1999)... There's no denying the freak-show appeal and you
don't see frontal nudity like this on TV!
" GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York"
The promise of reality stardom will make folks get freaky!
in its silliness...a frisson of shock!...A public audition
is held to find six contestants who are willing to peel
off their clothes, divulge their darkest secrets...Just
about all of the participants are good-looking aspiring
actors, and their willingness to get naked on camera
is, in every respect, eye-opening....As the contestants
talk of bulimia and prostitution and Tourette's syndrome,
shedding enough tears for 10 Barbara Walters specials,
Whitney pulls off a big twist, leaving you to ask, What
“An uproarious (and
surprisingly subversive) satire that manages to be as intriguing,
salacious and fun as the genre it's satirizing (not to
mention a helluva a lot sexier). Mix FEAR FACTOR with the
REAL WORLD, add a screen load of naked, buff young actors
and throw in a third-act twist worthy of a spy novel and
you have some idea of what's in store in James Ronald Whitney's
mind-bending new film."
—Jim Baker - writer,
..."GAMES PEOPLE PLAY:
New York" has twists that catch even the toughest
skeptics off-guard. Too hot for TV...this high-concept
documentary outlines a racy new reality series in which
wannabe actors compete for the chance to bare all, improvise
steamy "love scenes," and perform embarrassing
adult pranks (like trying to seduce an unsuspecting delivery
boy) for a shot at fame and $10,000.
In his director's notes,
self-proclaimed "reality whore" James Ronald
Whitney (who won acclaim for his documentaries Just, Melvin
and Telling Nicholas) blasts the current anything-goes
trend in reality television. "It's all bullshit," he
Let's skip to the good stuff:
Chock full of full-frontal nudity, Games sends its cast
on such naughty assignments as collecting urine samples
from strangers and enlisting passersby to join an all-nude
song-and-dance trio. And where real reality shows freak
out about their contestants' murky pasts, this one openly
exploits its damaged-goods participants. The group includes
a guy with Tourette's Syndrome, a gay male escort, a homophobe
with deep-rooted mommy issues, a bulimic, and a childhood
sex-abuse victim. These, dear friends, are the happy souls
you can look forward to watching cavort naked on-camera
(however, it would be remiss not to mention that all six
score at least 9 on the external-beauty scale)...
pushed to the max!"
4 out of 4 stars!
Movie Pits Competitors
Against Each Other in Quest for $10,000
Forget television shows like
Big Brother, Survivor, American Idol, Who Wants to
Marry a Millionaire, Average
Joe, Temptation Island, The Bachelor and even Donald
Trump's The Apprentice. For if Games People Play is
a sign of what's in store for America, reality movies
may break even bigger than the reality TV craze.
small screen is severely limited by the dictates of
censors who freak out about Janet Jackson
a breast. This means that despite commercials which
show sweaty, scantily-clad singles flirting shamelessly
hot tubs, the network programmers never let the reality
action get any steamier than a provocative back massage
or maybe a passionate, but guilt-ridden kiss.
|Nothing much ever happens,
and the closest any of these programs have ever gotten
to full-blown nudity is that tiled-out, gay guy on
Survivor frolicking in the ocean.
By contrast, the outrageous Games People Play, breaks
the reality mold, presenting some very complicated individuals,
warts, neuroses, genitals and all, in front of the unblinking
eye of an uncensored camera. Directed by Emmy Award-winner
James Ronald Whitney (Telling Nicholas), this fascinating
flick easily blows all the competition out of the water.
The ingenious Whitney
wanted to find out just how far struggling actors and
actresses were willing to go for
15 minutes of fame. So, he ran an ad in a New York City
newspaper seeking: "3 leading men, 3 leading women,
one of whom will earn $10,000 in 72 hours, 21-30, non-union,
in shape, attractive, and uninhibited- for an independent
Operating under severe financial and time constraints,
he hired a couple of celebrity judges, TV talk show therapist
Dr. Gilda Carle and NY nightclub legend Jim Caruso. The
film starts with their auditioning the hundreds of hopefuls
who showed up for the casting call at a Tribeca studio.
From the (NC-17) rated selection process alone, it becomes
apparent early on that there are plenty of people out there
desperate enough to bare themselves, both emotionally and
physically, for ten grand.
A compelling combination
of shocking stunts and revealing therapy sessions, Games
People Play lives up to its billing
as "America's Most Uninhibited Game Show." To
rack up the most points, contestants must approach people
on the street for a urine sample, invite strangers up to
a hotel room for a threesome, seduce delivery boys, and
try bed aspiring actresses on the casting couch.
Because one’s score is based on how far along each
mark agrees to go, you can imagine the degree to which
the entrants might compromise their values. This is evident
at moments such as the one where contestant (Sarah), who
had just resorted to nudity to prevail at a task, starts
crying when asked, "What would your father say about
what you're doing?"
During these down times, we get to see what damaged goods
we're dealing with, because the movie mixes in some rather
revealing personality profiles of its stars. (Elisha talks
about) being molested at the age of 4. (Scott tells how
he) was shuttled around foster homes after his mom died
in a car crash. (Josh describes how he) is afflicted with
Tourette's Syndrome and (Dani admits how she) suffers from
bulimia. (David reveals that he) is a male escort and (Sarah
describes how she), as a kid, hid under the bed when her
father was shot during a raid on their UN compound.
This micro-budgeted production proves that you don't need
much money to make an absolutely fascinating movie...Games
People Play is a unique feat certain to herald in a new
era of reality cinema... Sign me up to see the sequel,
which is already referred to in the closing credits.
exciting, surprising, scandalous, jaw-dropping and, ultimately,
very thought-provoking. What
more could you possibly ask of a reality movie? To paraphrase
Trump, "James Ronald Whitney, you're hired!"
Excellent...Four out of four stars!
of the assignments for female contestants in "Games People Play" is
to try to weedle personal information from women
in neighboring bathroom
Reality TV's move to big screen is surprisingly fresh!
'Games People Play: New York'
Unrated but featuring full nudity, erotic
At first glance — and there is a great deal to glance
at in this movie — “Games People Play: New
York” looks like a study in desperation as aspiring
actors and actresses cavort about onstage fully naked,
baring their past and present in an effort to win a spot
as one of six reality game show contestants who might
That’s right, a whopping 10 grand. Who wouldn’t
strip everything off and have simulated sex with a complete
stranger in front of a crowd for a chance at that kind
The money, of course,
is secondary. What this game and movie are offering to
the six attractive twentysomethings
who ultimately compete is a chance at public exposure,
with the emphasis on exposure. And yet what at first seems
like an outlandishly exploitative and garish concept evolves
into something both funny and surprisingly inventive by
film’s end as the supposed dupes playing the game
turn out to be far more than you expect...
The game involves
each set undertaking specific, progressively more outrageous
challenges. In the first, the guys have
to go out on the street and ask strangers for urine samples
while the gals have to garner personal information from
women in neighboring bathroom stalls. And that’s
just the beginning. At the same time, two judges make the
rounds of the contestants’ hotel rooms for in-depth
interviews about their lives and feelings.
The idea of expanding
the reality TV craze onto film surfaced more than a year
ago with a few ill-fated Spring Break-meets-Girls
Going Wilder projects that either flopped or disappeared.
Now director James Ronald Whitney has come up with an unrated,
over-the-top concept designed to...appeal to people looking
beyond this week’s Idol-Bachelor-Apprentice flash
AND IT WORKS. Somehow
Whitney manages to combine bulimia, urine tests, tearful
confessions, erotic auditions, complete
strangers, naked musical numbers, homophobia, male prostitution,
Tourette’s syndrome and copious nudity into a highly
entertaining, enlightening and ultimately devious film
Whether he’ll have equal success with subsequent
efforts — “GPP: Hollywood” has already
been shot — is hard to say, but the level of invention,
as well as the level of exhibition, leaves most of the
TV competition far behind. Part “Fear Factor,” part “Candid
Camera,” part “Survivor” and many parts
new, “Games People Play” is indeed a look at
the fame machine, done with tongue in cheek, eyes open
in wonderment and a brazen sense of playfulness that’s
hard to resist.
By Tom Long / Detroit News Film Critic
3 out of 4 stars!
Ronald Whitney introduces his film as the pilot for “America’s
most uninhibited game show.”
Between outrageous stunts that are heavy on full-frontal
nudity and simulated sex, the contestants bare their souls.
David Maynard talks
about his life as a male prostitute, and Dani Marco about
her eating disorder. Joshua Coleman
discusses his work as a bodybuilder. Sarah Smith and Scott
Ryan lost parents when they were young, and Elisha Imani
Wilson’s father beat her when she was four.
starts with hundreds responding to an ad for three men
and three women, ages 21-30, “in
shape, attractive, uninhibited.”
The crowd is whittled
down for in-studio auditions, including a screen test
that ends with an “uninhibited, erotic,
three-minute love scene.”
The last, in which
strangers pair up, bare all and go at it in front of
a room full of strangers, includes a
male couple, a female couple and a woman screwing a man
in the ass. That’s nothing compared to what the chosen
six will have to do with other strangers.
“Games People Play: New York” made
me ashamed to be watching, especially when I found myself
it, which was quite a bit of the time."
"A big-screen reality show that
flashes plenty of tit and dick!"
Wilson, LA WEEKLY
By MARISA MELTZER
FASCINATING..."Games People Play: New York" just
opened at Chelsea's Clearview Cinema.
Ronald Whitney, who also takes on the role of
mischievous emcee (his previous films include HBO's acclaimed "Just,
Melvin" and "Telling Nicholas"), says, "I'm
a reality TV whore - I watch all of it. But I also get
frustrated with its limitations. I wanted to make a movie
that tested how uninhibited people could be - both physically
And the six unknown actors chosen for
the 72-hour hour adventure were certainly put to the test
in terms of what they were willing to reveal - literally.
"I think the nakedness was appropriate
for the project," says actress Sarah Smith, who appears
topless on the movie's poster. However, she adds, "my
parents haven't seen it - I'm going to let them make that
As for Whitney, he says: "I would
never ask my actors to do anything I wouldn't do myself."
"Being on a billboard on 42nd Street
blows my mind," says actor Scott Ryan. "And I'm
still friends with the cast. It was such a bonding experience."
And as with any BUZZED-ABOUT reality
show, there will be sequels. "Games People Play: Hollywood," is
already completed, and "Games People Play: Bible Belt" will
be filmed soon.
And Whitney is convinced that the Bible
Belt won't be shocked by his brand of fun: "I think
the mainstream is ready for this material."
Movie City News
June 24, 2003-- While
the media continue to obsess over such glamour-puss festivals
as Cannes, Sundance...I've just returned from CineVegas
-- where, along with Mike Goodridge, of Screen International,
and Holly Willis, of RES Magazine - I was enlisted to
judge a dozen or so features and documentaries...Panel
discussions included such artists as Dennis Hopper, Allison
Anders, Keith Gordon, Clark Johnson and Grace Slick...
I was very impressed by
James Ronald Whitney's consistently surprising Games People
Play, which kept audiences guessing as to whether they
were watching the pilot for a new reality-TV show, a carefully
staged mockumentary or a torture test for actors willing
to bear their souls and bodies for a shot at a measly $10,000
prize. Besides the demands placed on the actors in his "extreme
reality" show, Whitney forces viewers to come to grips
with their own willingness to accept voyeurism and self-flagellation
It wasn't Cannes - or Chicago,
for that matter -- but CineVegas sure made me feel good
about movies again.
People Play: New York
An amusing, roundly enjoyable
social experiment wrapped in colorful
docu-tainment swaddling clothes, Games People Play: New
York is billed,
both in press materials and by its director, Emmy-winning
James Ronald Whitney (Telling Nicholas, HBO's Just, Melvin),
introduction to the movie, as the filmed pilot episode
series-baiting trilogy (sorry aspirant Los Angelenos, Games
Play: Hollywood is apparently even already in the can,
from the first film serving as judges/hosts)...beautifully
hybrid, part Punk'd, part The Real World, part game show...
Games People Play also scores
considerable points for at least tangentially addressing
the fact that
perhaps the interpersonal tumult on display may have some
sort of latent
connection with each individual's predisposition toward
performance. (The film would make for immensely interesting
thoughtful, struggling and would-be actors.)
In the end...it is clever
and certainly does come off as more realistic than most
reality TV. Ironic, given that everyone involved is an
actor? Nah, at
least they're finally being honest about their aspirations.
finally achieved a societal breakthrough.
'Games People Play' in detail will spoil the ending
as shouting, 'Bruce Willis is a ghost!' would ruin 'The
Sixth Sense'...the freak-show factor is off the meter!"
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY:
Reality TV hits the big screen with shocking results!
Okay, it was bound to happen. No one could stop it. With
massively popular TV shows like The Bachelor, Survivor,
American Idol, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, The Real
World, Fear Factor and Dr. Phil popping up everywhere,
it was only a matter of time before some cutting-edge
filmmaker figured out a way to capitalize and take it...
uh, down to the next level: NAKED!
Emmy winning filmmaker
James Ronald Whitney has come up with a reality concept
so utterly all-encompassing that
it combines the premises of all these types of shows into
one explicit 99-minute "game show pitch." The
effect is similar to watching a car accident pile up: you're
horrified, confused, appalled and strangely drawn to the
debacle. After watching it I felt manipulated, annoyed,
sickened, amused and strangely enthralled by the sheer
audacity of what Whitney pulls out of his hat by the end,
which I won't give away here.
...A self-proclaimed "reality whore," Whitney
holds an open casting call in NYC for "uninhibited" actors
and actresses to use their "acting" talents to
compete in "games" to win $10,000.
Contestants happily bare all, body and soul, at the drop
of a hat and with each other, in extremely compromising
positions...There's also a soul-baring part which made
me even more uncomfortable when these people, on request,
told their darkest secrets on camera to strangers and then
cried hysterically. All for money. And fame! They wanna
live forever! Yikes.
After the auditions,
six very attractive young men and women are chosen, and
asked to basically become robots
and do whatever they're asked. Whitney's next round of
games involve more nudity, the manipulation of unsuspecting
passers-by to pee in cups for fake urine tests, and working
with more aspiring actors who are unwittingly auditioning
for fake films...Particularly amusing was a segment called "The
Naked Trio," where the contestants went out in pairs
to coerce some poor schmo off the street into going back
to their hotel for a three-way sex romp. Instead, the guy
ended up as a naked background singer performing a vaudeville
song as part of "The Naked Trio." Bravo! It's
lucky that one of these random guys off the street didn't
pull a gun.
...I can't tell you why
I'm being so cryptic but I don't want to spoil the ending,
which is the reason to sit through
this...I have to watch it again to see what I missed. Come
to think of it, they got me. Damn!...I hate to admit it,
but it's gonna be huge. God help us!
GAME FOR ANYTHING
" How far will people go for fame and fortune? You have no
Cute couples taking home a stranger
for a "naked trio." A
foxy boy asks a guy on the street for a sample of his urine.
Seducing the all-too-willing deli delivery boy... Plus a
few tears and cliffhangers along the way...It's just the
tip of the randy iceberg of the antics of six actor wannabes
who bare all--and yes, we mean all--in their quest to win
a pot of cash and prove that they are the most fearless/shameless
young acting talent alive.
Taking the gimmickry of reality-TV game shows to another, more manic level is
director James Ronald Whitney's GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York (an L.A. installment
is due soon)...Hilarious, sometimes harrowing, infinitely watchable (it's hard
to turn away) look at what people will do to prove themselves. There are teary
moments and confessions...You'll laugh; you'll cry; you'll cringe; you'll see
some dick--and then you'll laugh some more. And you'll thank God you're not on
Games People Play: New
||Watching Games People Play: New York,
a feature film that purports to have begun life as
a pitch for a reality-TV series, I am reminded of
a famous anecdote about George Bernard Shaw, who
found himself seated next to an attractive woman
at a party. "Madam," he said, "would
you go to bed with me for a thousand pounds?" Despite
receiving an indignant refusal, the writer persisted,
eventually getting his dinner companion to admit
that she might sleep with him for the then princely
sum of 50,000 pounds. "And if I were to offer
you five pounds?" Shaw countered, only to hear
her exclaim, "Mr. Shaw! What do you take me
for?" "We have already established what
you are," Shaw replied. "Now we are merely
haggling over the price."
In Games, the price
for selling oneself in front of a national audience is
apparently $10,000, which is the relatively
paltry prize filmmaker James Ronald Whitney offers to whichever
one of six contestants (three men and three women) proves
best at performing such "uninhibited" on-camera
stunts as persuading strangers to provide urine samples
and seducing immigrant deliverymen into receiving an all-nude
massage. In a disturbing twist to this parade of debasement
-- interspersed with excruciatingly private confessionals
to the game's "judges," a celebrity publicist
and a psychotherapist -- Whitney adds a surprise layer,
turning the film's audience into the ultimate sucker. That,
and not the copious exposed flesh and rampant emotional
cruelty, is what makes Games actually rather interesting...it's
a kind of Candid Camera on acid (or at least Rohypnol)!
- Michael O'Sullivan
'Games'...It may be
your cup of T-- and A!
" Games People
Play" is not a documentary about the Spinners. But
whatever it is, it opens today at the Ritz Bourse...It's
a wonder no one got the crap beat out of them during
the making of the film.
A theme of the movie is
that a struggling actor will do virtually anything for
a chance at money and fame...What's more bizarre about "GPP" is
that the people pulled in off the street will do virtually
Like any reality show, there
are some twists and heartbreaks along the way...which should
catch most viewers by surprise. "Games People Play" is
definitely not for everyone...but it is different - and
thanks to six attractive, likable actors, oddly riveting.
Games People Play: New
...James Ronald Whitney previously made the intensely
personal and searing autobiographical doc Just Melvin (renamed as
Just, Melvin: Just Evil for HBO). For Games, he holds a
casting call for actors who compete for a $10,000 prize
by doing zany pranks around Manhattan and confessing secrets
that no one but an emotional voyeur would want to know.
Poor, weeping Brianne looks into
the camera and explains that she "has just been sleeping with random people
and could get AIDS." ...Games may be the apotheosis
of reality-TV culture, complete with full nudity, toilet
humor and lots of other naughtiness...Is this what it has
come to? Are we just a bunch of doltish, confessional cheap-thrill
seekers? Games People Play would have you think so, and
judging from reality TV's ratings triumphs, it may be right.
This is the kind of faux-dignified freak show that was
once the stuff of parody and satire...!"
By Chris Vognar
Games People Play: New
York, a feature film...it's a pretty scathing satire of
reality fare, including itself, which makes it both what
it is and a critique of what it is. I'm just not sure I
like the feeling of squirming in that narrowest of gaps.
idea is to rub "reality" in a steaming heap of
exploitation that would leave nightly addicts of "elimiDATE," "Taildaters, "Cheaters," or "The
5th Wheel" feeling completely satisfied. He brings
in the hard-core sensibility that broadcast standards won't
allow in those shows.
In "Games People Play," three
men and three women run around Manhattan for 72 hours
attempting to seduce...strangers
for a $10,000 prize. The six players are also actors, and
another part of this contest is to discover which is the
best performer...The ultimate victor is victorious because
he or she can score the most total points across three
The hundreds of people who descend upon the show's open
casting call passionately dredge up their most terrible
diary entries for a spot in this...production. There seem
to be dozens of stories of rape, attempted suicide, and
After the big confessional round and once all the middle-aged
and unattractive applicants have been turned away, the
remaining hopefuls are asked to do a scene with each other
that involves a little acting and a lot of lust. Oh, and
fully disrobing is a plus.
The final six, a tolerable bunch, reveal their troubles
and insecurities -- eating disorders, male prostitution,
Tourette's syndrome, nymphomania, etc. -- to the judges.
Between these confessions, they perform ridiculous stunts.
While the men are out accosting strangers for urine samples,
for instance, the women are gathering personal information
from the person in the next bathroom stall.
Another stunt involves the women individually dropping
their towels, then seducing take-out delivery guys, most
of whom don't speak English. At some point, the actress
and filmmakers confess to the bewildered delivery guys
that, in the words of Ashton Kutcher and MTV, they've been
Last year, the release of the reality movie "The Real
Cancun" prompted widespread fear and loathing. What
happens to actors? What happens to civilization? Nobody
saw it, and the movie was ultimately harmless. But there's
something unsafe and scary about "Games People Play." It
has the homemade look of both a public access special and
a "Dateline" undercover investigation. A lot
of the action takes place at night in sterile hotel rooms
and in other anonymous places. The whole experience feels...like
walking alone down a long damp alley at 3 in the morning.
On the film's website, Whitney
claims to be a "reality whore." Accordingly,
in 2002, he made a documentary called "Telling Nicholas," in
which the director...won an Emmy...!"
By Wesley Morris
"The film offers plenty
of male and female frontal nudity, and some mimed sex (in
an audition scene where the actors are told to improvise
erotic content). If your not ashamed of yourself by now,
dear viewer, just wait till the participants indulge in
tearful confessions--in front of the former Love Doc from
MTV--about incidents involving bulimia, molestation and
prostitution. And there's a surprise ending...
Director James Ronald Whitney has created a couple of highly
praised HBO documentaries: 'Just, Melvin,' which dealt with
childhood sexual abuse, and 'Telling Nicholas,' about the
effects of Sept. 11, 2001, on one family...Whitney, I believe
thinks of 'Games People Play' as a satire of reality TV,
and wants viewers to question their own fascination with
this lurid stuff."
"TITILLATING REALITY...for the big screen."
— Bilge Ebiri & Logan Hill
Film lets the 'Games' begin
Three hunky guys - one of whom is gay - and three sexy women via for $10,000
in the new film "Games People Play: New York." This big-screen
version of a "reality show" takes six actors, and puts them through
72 hours of sexual shenanigans. While writer/director James Ronald Whitney''s
film is certainly audacious, it remains to be seen if his "game show
pilot" will take off.
What does come off,
however, are the participants'' clothes - and often...From
the auditions - which feature two guys,
two girls or one of each improvising an erotic, three-minute
love scene (one involves toe sucking) - to the "games" themselves,
everyone must bare their bodies.
And Whitney also has the cast bare their souls.
Each individual meets privately with a psychologist and
a celebrity publicist where they reveal their deepest,
darkest secrets. In these episodes, David confesses that
he works as a male escort, while another, Sarah, describes
watching her father being shot when she was a teen. Other
participants describe their battles with bulimia, and Tourette''s
"Games People Play" uses these segments to uncover
more about the players than the full-frontal exhibitionism.
Yet most of the movie consists of the entertaining games.
The women get to act out such things as "Delivery
Boy''s Fantasy" in which they must get a stranger
naked within a specified time limit. Likewise, the guys
get to do things like solicit urine samples from people
on the street. It is brazen in the way of a fraternity
hell week...audiences will be amazed at how the players
participated for the outrageous scenes.
One event, titled "Naked Trio" involves
two guys and a girl getting completely nude in a hotel
- to sing. Part of the fun of the film is seeing what shameful
antics Whitney has in store for them...Overall, the male
contestants are not shy, especially Joshua who has little
trouble asking men on the street - some of whom are shamelessly
attracted to him - to provide him with the urine samples.
(Incidentally, blond stud Joshua earned the championship
bodybuilder title Mr. Penn while enrolled at the University
Likewise, David (the
escort) has no reservations about being out - as when
he tells a women he''s such a good
kisser that he could turn her straight son gay...As with
any good reality program, there is a final twist that while
satisfying, many viewers will see coming. "Games People
Play" may not revolutionize the reality show craze
as Whitney might hope, but this amiable film will certainly
have eyes popping and tongues wagging.
-Gary M. Kramer
3 out of 4 stars!
A lie, a gag or both? 'Games' leaves a mystery!
If the concept of
metafiction -- fiction that is about fiction -- has you
so confused you tend to shy away from
bookstores, you will want to carefully consider whether
to see "Games People Play: New York," especially
if you are one of the millions of reality-show junkies.
|'Games People Play: New
out of 4 stars
Not rated; nudity, language, sexual situations
1 hour, 40 minutes
An alleged documentary
that so blurs the boundaries between real, unreal and
surreal that they might
as well not
exist, "Games" is... just interesting enough
to relieve the embarrassment you deserve for enjoying
We are supposed to
believe, I think, that "Games
People Play" is either the pilot for a risque, cable-ready
reality show or...the first in a trilogy of reality movies...Either
way, it begins with a cattle-call audition for "uninhibited" actors,
six of whom will be chosen to compete for a $10,000 prize.
Before a pair of judges,
an actor named Jim Caruso and a psychotherapist named
Gilda Carle -- both of whom may
be phonies for all I know -- the hopefuls, without much
prodding, bare themselves emotionally and then physically.
The latter is a prerequisite, because nearly all challenges
they will face in competition (most of which are more like "Candid
Camera" stunts) involve full nudity.
Not surprisingly, all six contestants chosen by director-producer
James Ronald Whitney (who, it should be noted, also takes
a credit for the screenplay) are attractive and have suffered
some serious psychological trauma or harbor some deep secret,
or at least do their best to convince us that is the case.
They then proceed, scavenger hunt-style, to their assignments,
which include seeing who can collect the largest number
of urine samples from people on the street in a limited
time, who can recruit strangers at a hotel to join two
of them to perform as an all-nude trio and, for the women,
who can seduce a delivery boy the quickest. The men, meanwhile,
pretend to be producers in order to get women on their
casting couch, which could be Whitney's own nod to metafiction...
The distinction is
ultimately negligible whether "Games
People Play" is all put-on, part put-on or all exploitation.
As Lily Tomlin once asked, what is reality, anyway, except
a collective hunch?
BY TERRY LAWSON
"Full-frontal nudity is
the least outrageous part of this picture!"
"First in a trilogy...a
heavy sex-and-skin factor!...
Writer-director James Ronald Whitney assembles a team of
six actors in their early 20s --three buff, gym-sculpted
lads and three ethnically assorted babes...The sextet is
culled from an open-call audition, during which aspiring
contestants reveal all, emotionally and physically...Boys
must collect urine samples from strangers and coax actresses
to uninhibited heights in a casting couch session; girls
must engage women in neighboring bathroom stalls in elaborate
dialogues and seduce delivery boys in record time. Split
into teams of two, the couples must enlist a man off the
street to sing in a naked trio act, all recorded on invisible
The confessional segments
involve the attractive but unfortunate contestants spilling
their guts on experiences including bulimia, parental loss
and abandonment, turning tricks and sexual molestation during
intimate interviews with the judges, singer-performer Jim
Caruso and psychotherapist Dr. Gilda Carle...perhaps the
least sympathetic shrink on the planet -- as she spouts
compassionate lines like, "But you were a male prostitute
before this guy got cancer, right?"
...Next release, "Games
People Play: Hollywood."
THE GAMES BEGIN
"Let's face it, many
people are going to see James Ronald Whitney's new film,
'GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York'...and this reality film delivers!
on KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN, THIS GIRL'S LIFE,BREAK A LEG, THE
FITTEST, and GAMES PEOPLE PLAY!
Hey folks, Harry here with the first
report from The Psychedelic and the Las Vegas Film Festival
known to the world as Cinevegas. I was a judge at this festival
last year where I got to discover such jewels like POOLHALL
JUNKIES and SPUN. Looks like there's some good stuff this
year...'Games People Play'--Reality TV meets Candid Camera
meets Star Search meets Therapy Sessions meets NC-17 pranks
in James Ronald Whitney's documentary-entertainment blend.
A casting call in NYC leads to a 72-hour game where everything
is not what it seems. Naked bodies and emotions are plentiful
in this cleaver concept.
lure unsuspecting bystanders into revealing skin, personal
information, and in one mini-game: urine. All this happens
while contestants spill their guts to the cameras... A Hollywood
edition is being completed with a Bible Belt chapter in the
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
"A Brilliant, Damning Satire...!"
Anyone who has spent time with
me, read anything I’ve written
or has listened to me ramble on endlessly knows how I feel about the
reality TV craze. Uncreative, cheaply produced pieces of trash that
take jobs away from talented writers and actors while providing an
outlet for wannabe fameseekers to have their 15 minutes while taking
countless blocks of time away from us all. I hate them all. There have
been surprisingly few attempts at satirizing the whole genre, outside
of some direct-to-video nudefests and the only successful outing, Series
7: The Contenders. Games People Play does not announce itself as a
documentary nor does it establish a faux-spoof slant. When it was all
over, I had no idea what its intention was, but I knew I had been entertained,
made angry and will be thinking about it for a long time.
The obvious stragglers (at an opening audition) are eliminated immediately
just before round two is initiated. The finalists are asked to strut,
pose, reveal intimate details of their lives and improvise a graphic
three-minute love scene with their fellow interviewees. This section
becomes an immediate entry point into the hilarity and utterly pathetic
nature of fameseekers, all trying to flex and make an impression on
not just the judges but the camera watching them...
Three men and three women are eventually chosen to be the contestants...and
when the six of them aren't giving it up full frontal, they're baring
their souls to a Dr. Laura lookalike judge/psychiatrist and her shadow
who dig into their pasts...
The game portions, taking up the
middle of the film, are at times funny and ridiculous... How far
will those actresses go with the love
scene after we're reminded of Hollywood's definition of "casting
couch"? What if the delivery boy went further than touching the
one girl's ass after she dropped her towel in front of him? Will the
cameras ever stop?
"Hopefully not" must
be the answer for Joshua Coleman, Dani Marco, David Maynard, Scott
Ryan, Sarah Smith and Elisha Imani Wilson
whose 15 minutes stretched over a period of a 72-hour shooting cram
session may be more significant than anyone could have guessed. For
Games People Play takes on a kind of transcendant purity by its final
frames for us and its stars. We've seen a lot of nudity and a prize
has been awarded, but what we've really seen calls into question not
just the previous hour but everything reality fans have become accustomed
to and sold repeatedly week-after-week.
What then queries the mind is
a triple-layer of "what have we
just seen?" Whitney, a self-described "reality whore" and
he's created a tightrope of satire and subjective voyeurism which toys
with the audience's expectations and at the same time gives everyone
exactly what they expect. The seduction scenes rival and, in most cases,
outperform the soft-core Cinemax brethren. The revealing interviews
spliced into the game go well beyond the superficiality of Survivor
and Real World breakdowns, achieving heartbreak, frustration and, ultimately,
It's hard to satirize and to titillate
at the same time, but perhaps the two are siamise soulmates that
will never be excised. Whitney is
already an accomplished documentarian with such works as "Just,
Melvin" and "Telling Nicholas", powerful films which
dealt with family molestation and 9/11, so its nearly impossible to
accuse him of just trying for a quick buck on the reality scene. Even
after the back-and-forth reactions I had during the film, it was an
inescapable presence in my mind long after I left the theater. I believe
Whitney's intentions are far loftier and I'll back that up in future
discussions of Games People Play. But with Games People Play: Hollywood
and Games People Play: The Bible Belt on the way, are we looking at
a trilogy with even more secrets up its sleeve...? In reality, it's
going to take a lot more than 15 minutes to discover the answer.
- Erik Childress, member_CHICAGO FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION
At first glance, James Ronald
Whitney's Games People Play: New York appears to be what
one might call an extreme reality game - a combination of
"Fear Factor" and "Candid Camera" with
stunts so over-the-top that even an R rating would be unattainable.
But first glances can be deceiving, especially when the
viewer takes the time to look a little deeper. Sure, Games
People Play is the ultimate guilty pleasure with plenty
of eye candy (in the form of full-frontal male and female
nudity), but there's more to the film than fit, naked bodies.
Not only does Whitney (who admits in the production notes
to being "a reality whore") do a credible ape
of reality game shows, but he offers some emotional resonance.
Part documentary, part parody, and part something indefinable,
the film manages to succeed on its own terms and entertain
on just about anyone's.
Certainly, the titillation
aspect is high, causing Games People Play to deliver in
a way that The Real Cancun didn't...In Games, there are
some things Whitney unquestionably does well. The first
is to take a cold, hard look at the inexplicably popular
phenomenon of "reality television" (a misnomer
if there ever was one). You know the kinds of shows that
I'm talking about - where good looking people do incredibly
embarrassing things in order to gain their fifteen minutes
of fame and win a paltry cash prize. These shows get big
ratings. Here, Whitney takes things farther than any network
would ever dare go, and the six contestants come along for
the ride, nipples pointing straight ahead and penises swinging.
As one of them remarks, it's not really about the $10,000
prize. It's about the challenge.
Games People Play has its
serious side, as well. Without becoming maudlin, it touches
on such sober issues as eating disorders, child molestation,
and male prostitution. Each of the contestants has something
ugly lurking in his or her past, and, as a result of a candid
conversation, these stories come out...
One would expect Games People
Play: New York to have widespread appeal within its target
demographic, who will adore what Whitney has put on the
screen, not just because it's funny and full of nudity,
but because it's smart. Perhaps the best news of all is
that this is the first episode of a trilogy. Games People
Play: Hollywood is in post-production, and Games People
Play: The Bible Belt will follow. The challenge for Whitney
will be to take these other films in new directions. I look
forward to seeing what that is.
film critic for WCTC's "The Bernard Spigner Show"
Milking this current fascination
with real people doing really dumb things for big bucks for creative–and comedic–effect comes
James Ronald Whitney’s Games People Play (aka Games People
Play: New York since there appears to be a Games People Play: Hollywood
All comers must be in shape, attractive,
and uninhibited, i.e., willing to strip themselves of both their
clothes and their emotions, as each
are put through their risqué paces, performing sex-related stunts
in public and private while having their personal skeletons yanked
from their closets by the game show equivalents of Dr. Joyce Brothers
and Bob Barker.
Soon enough, through the magic
of cinema (or, more accurately, the magic of rapid fire editing of
cheesy digital video), the crowd
been reduced to three men (a gigolo, a Tourette’s Syndrome sufferer,
a young man who’s mother was killed in a car crash when he was
very young) and three women (a bulimic, a victim of sexual abuse, a
young woman whose father was murdered when she was very young). David,
Joshua, Scott, Dani, Elisha, and Sarah (respectively)...The hook here,
of course, is that the better you are at laying bare your soul (and
accompanying body parts), the better your chances of walking away with
—David N. Butterworth
Love it or hate it, reality television is here to stay, and its jump
small screen to large is inevitable...I don't know exactly where
Games People Play: New York fits into that
puzzle. In all honesty, it probably doesn't even belong on the same
as that puzzle, aside from ultimately being about reality television.
isn't a big-screen spin-off of an already successful Nielsen juggernaut,
is it a shrewd look at voyeurism set against the backdrop of what we're
supposed to believe is an already successful (but completely fictitious)
Play takes place over just 72 hours, with the casting process taking
first six. Potential contestants are first told to act crazy and
uninhibited, without speaking, for 30 seconds. Then Whitney has each
painfully personal story, and he uses the audio from this portion set
video from the first segment to create a carnival of horrors as people
their muscles and tear off their shirts while talking about date rape
not having any real friends.
The auditions get more titillating,
degenerating into full, un-pixilated nudity and simulated sex using
possible combination of genders...These peculiar missions are occasionally
interrupted by segments in which a
pair of shrinks interview the six contestants, and that's when things
really weird. Some have the typical foibles (if you're a reality TV
like me) such as bulimia and sexual molestation, but others tell tales
truly scandalous behavior, like male prostitution, political assassination
and deadly automobile crashes. And things get odder yet, but telling
how might ruin Play (though it does make you wonder how Whitney is
get away with Games People Play: Hollywood). It's a very interesting
Personally, I was glued to the screen
while I watched it...and was totally thrown by the last 15 minutes.
pervert and a voyeur, and I love reality-based shows. I'm no expert
predicting what people might like (My Big Fat Greek Wedding? What's
with you people?), but I would think hardcore reality fans, as well
fellow perverts and voyeurs, would enjoy it. Even a handful of folks
despise reality shows might get a kick out of the way Whitney puts
reality" back into the genre.
Review: Games People Play (James Ronald Whitney, 2004)
As an avid hater of reality television, the intelligence behind James
Ronald Whitney's Games People Play was quite a surprise to me. .
As the picture to the left indiciates, there's a complete unabashed
confidence in Whitney's direction. He doesn't hold back from displaying
graphic full-frontal nudity or intense sexual acts. Cinematically,
I must admit that the freewheeling style and amusing situations were
a total blast for me to watch. Unlike crap such as Survivor or Temptation
Island, there's an honesty in Games People Play that eliminates the
feeling of contrivance that permeates throughout the former shows.
I actually believed that these folks were doing these things. Can't
say the same about any reality show that I've seen...
That being said, what particularly interested me about Games People
Play was the heart behind it. Beneath the sexcapadic surface, there's
a touching look at inhibitions, where they come from, and how to conquer
them. Wild sequences are intercut with powerful confessions about traumatic
and sad personal experiences. Among them are rapes, homosexual acts,
and masochistic abuse with drugs and sharp objects. It's not pleasant
to watch, but it's also not at all glorifying and makes the viewer
contemplate the extremes that these people went to. Considering the
large numbers of intense personal demons, it's no surprise that the
contestants (and wannabe contestants) were willing to bare it all.
It's an outlet for their suffering and frustration, and these convictions
come across strongly enough to make Games People Play a rewarding,
if difficult, experience.
...Give Games People Play a twirl...there'll be the normal slew of
critics - and viewers - who find anything with bare skin or severe
situations gratuitous by default, but take my word for it. It's not.
by Gabe Leibowitz
Film Review: ''Games People
Play: New York''
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 grand?
...Uninhibited is what Whitney
asked for, and that is exactly he gets: hotter than an Andy
Sidaris production...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...with plenty
of uncensored, free flowing flesh.
We are introduced to two
charming young performers, Joshua Coleman and Sarah Smith.
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.
Fame Obsessed: Games
People Play New York
How Far Would You Go For Fame?
I tell you that Games People Play New York answers the age-old
question “How far would you go for fame?” you
will probably think I’m joking. How can a movie actually
answer a question akin to “What is the meaning of
life?” But I’m not joking. It does answer the
question, and in the process it’ll shock the hell
out of you...The reality craze we’ve been going through
with the TV networks has reached high ratings and low moments,
(I’m not particularly a fan)...Now take any of these
shows, multiply the soul baring by ten and add in no particular
order: seduction, bulimia, male and female nudity, Tourette
syndrome, casting couch, prostitution, asking strangers
for urine samples, more nudity, getting the delivery boy
naked, faking sex and a naked trio, and you end up with
Games People Play New York, truly America’s most uninhibited
Award winner James Ronald Whitney, director of HBO’s
“Just, Melvin” and “Telling Nicholas”,
a self proclaimed reality whore, wanted to see how far go
for fame and fortune.
will make you react. You’ll think about it for days,
and during most of it you just won’t believe your
eyes or your ears...This is a must-see!...So check out the
listing below, make sure you’re comfortable with the
person you’ll see this with, if you’re not going
by yourself, and get yourself to a movie theater.
For a teaser check out www.GamesPeoplePlayTheMovie.com
A follow up film, Games People
Play Hollywood is already in the works. Keep up to date
on its progress at www.gamespeopleplaythemovie.com
levels of reality and artifice in Games People Play are
so densely interwoven that it is probably futile to try
to sort them out, which is the heart of writer/director
James Ronald Whitney’s elaborate ...game show, where
each week three men and three women are selected to compete
for points in various high-concept (and usually dirty) contests.
Whitney claims he came up with the idea, which he considers
the ultimate reality show, but had no idea how to shop it
to producers, so he made this film as a way of demonstrating
its potential. Thus, Games People Play is both the pilot
show itself and also a quasi-documentary about its making...
The central idea of Games
People Play is creating situations to see how far the contestants
and the unwitting people on the street with whom they interact
will go. It’s a tests of limits in which only the
most shameless will win, which, in a nutshell, is the essence
of reality TV...Whitney simply takes that concept and runs
with it, taking it to NC-17 extremes and putting all the
results up on the screen.
BONES ABOUT IT, "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: NEW YORK"
IS HIGHLY ENTERTAINING—EVEN ENGROSSING! Much of this
is due to the six-pack of attractive, willing twentysomethings—
Joshua Coleman, Dani Marco, David Maynard, Sarah Smith,
Scott Ryan and Elisha Wilson—who bare their bodies
and souls for our voyeuristic pleasure. We get to know these
people through one of the show’s conceits, which is
forcing them to sit down with a psychoanalyst and
one of the show’s producers and pour out the most
awful moments of their lives in a kind of bizarre therapy
The game, which lasts 72
hours, consists of ridiculous hidden-camera scenarios...
What is interesting, though, is the people involved, because
they’re not blank slates, but rather characters about
whom we learn a lot...giving teary-eyed testimonials about
their awful lives, replete with stories of date rape, eating
disorders, prostitution, even seeing one’s father
killed. This makes for an uneasy, but strangely compelling
juxtaposition in which we watch these people extend themselves
to the limits on two fronts—one that is often breathtakingly
hilarious in its “how far will you go?” ethos,
the other painfully intimate. Yet, the two are deeply intertwined,
as Whitney connects these people’s willingness to
do anything with their willingness to say anything. This,
he asserts, is why Games People Play is more “real”
than other reality shows: There are no limits on what he
can show and what his contestants can do. It’s a completely
There is a twist near the
end of Games People Play that throws everything we bought
into for the previous hour and 20 minutes out of whack and
further blurs the lines between the real and the artificial.
This is a clever trick for a show, albeit one that can only
work once, which leads one to believe that Whitney has been
toying with us all along. Games People Play, as the title
suggests, is not so much a potential reality show as it
is a cleverly disguised satire of the entire reality TV
phenomenon...Part of its absurd genius is that it’s
never entirely clear what it is and what it isn’t,
which leaves it up to each individual viewer to decide.
Now, that’s reality.
out of 4 STARS!
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York
by James Ronald Whitney
Games People Play: New York
opens with...James Ronald
Whitney addressing the camera with a pitch to television
executives for the most extreme reality show ever, called
Games People Play. The rest of the film describes what
happens after he places an ad in a New York City paper
announcing an audition to cast six "attractive" and "uninhibited" young
men and women for the making of a feature-length pilot
for this reality game show. Those who answer the ad and
are deemed hot enough to proceed to the audition are called
upon to dredge up their most painful experiences and improvise
an explicit sex scene in front of a room full of strangers
in order to prove themselves worthy subjects of the show.
three women and three men are picked to perform stunts
that revolve around exploiting taboos about privacy,
nudity and sex; the winner will take home a $10,000 prize.
The contestants are also subjected to interviews of a creepy,
Barbara Walters-type intimacy with pop-psychology staple
Dr. Gilda Carle. Over the course of the movie, the audience
is treated to an endless parade of nakedness, both emotional
and physical, from the desperate young contestants as they
get kicked out of public restrooms, perform naked musical
numbers and seduce unwitting extras.
...The line between
the real and the scripted is so unclear that it becomes
impossible to read the movie. It is never
made clear if it is a scripted parody of reality entertainment
or if it fits legitimately within the reality genre. The
names of all involved in the film, of which there are Hollywood
and Bible Belt editions in the making, have been left unchanged
in order to implicate the innocent, or perhaps to prove
that no one is innocent in this world full of willing fodder
for -- and consumers of -- the humiliating, twisted experiments
of "reality" television.
James Ronald Whitney,
who directed and wrote the film, is a real documentary-maker.
Carle really is a doctor,
author and talking head for radio and television...Whitney
is an emperor who has convinced his subjects to wear no
--by Sara Ginsberg
Play: New York
This “Reality Show” is the way we like ’em!
Directed by James Ronald Whitney
...Six aspiring New York
actors compete against each other for a paltry $10,000
They are called upon to strip
naked and play risqué pranks on unsuspecting people
on the street, and the unbridled enthusiasm with which
they - as weel as the dozens of failed auditioners for
the movie - do this is eye-opening, to say the least...Many
buff MTV Spring Break types eagerly drop trou and get busy
for the camera, as well as the entire casting call. (Rex
Reed's favorite, Joshua Coleman had the bright idea to
have a woman fist him on film.)
The gags run from silly - the three
girls have to try to start a conversation with women
sharing adjacent toilet
stalls; the boys have to collect pee samples from strangers
- to even sillier - the girls seduce unsuspecting delivery
boys until their “husbands” stormily intrude;
they all have to enlist a stranger to perform a Naked Trio
before the camera...
It’s not all cheap laughs, however. During the serious
confessional part of the auditions, people break down in
tears describing personal histories of bulimia, child abuse
and family loss. These play a big part in the film’s
big, climactic twist, which I, for one, never saw coming.
4.5 out of 5 Stars!
Games People Play (James
Ronald Whitney, 2004): Though I do enjoy the occasional
reality game show...I still find myself actively questioning
the "reality" of what we're being presented. James
Ronald Whitney appears to have been plagued by the the same
questions, and he has responded by making Games People Play,
something that seems to function both as a "reality
movie" and a satire of the reality trend. An elaborate
casting call yields six contestants who will compete in
"the most uninhibited game show ever," performing
bizarre, uncomfortable and ostensibly embarrassing stunts
for points. The one with the most points at the end of the
72 hour shoot gets ten thousand dollars in cash...A final
"plot twist" puts everything we've just seen into
question, and Games People Play becomes a curious thing:
a reality game show that plays us...this little project
is intriguing and strangely educational.
"How far will performers
go for fame and fortune? You might be surprised. While
$10,000 might seem like chump change to the million dollars
offered by FOX, some struggling New York-based actors will
do anything to win it. I mean anything in the film, GAMES
PEOPLE PLAY: New York, where three very attractive men
and three equally lovely women must prove they are completely
uninhibited, and bare everything emotionally and physically
before the camera!"
Games People Play: New York
" ...Three pretty actors and three
pretty actresses try to ensnare unsuspecting humans in sexually
candid-camera setups. These are intercut
with tearful interviews between the players and TV therapist Gilda
Carle...Whitney frames this as the pilot for a reality TV show..."
most uninhibited game show' by on-camera host Whitney...full-frontal
voyeurism and teary confessions (bulimia, suicide and
family tragedy) are also part of the package...Just as
and torture are key in shows such as The Apprentice,
Fear Factor and Cat-fighting Trailer Trash Bachelorettes
to Marry a Millionaire Dwarf, the sight of people doing
things they shouldn't - at least, not while the video
camera is on - is the heart and soul of this feature!"
THE INDIE-EST OF THE INDIES
In GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York, director James Ronald
Whitney has pushed the reality craze into its final frontier,
where no standards and practices have gone before: nudity.
And not just any nudity. Complete, full-frontal, ass-barin’,
Yes, the gloves are off—along with the bras, boxers,
and thongs. Whitney wants to explore the depths of the
human condition even further by finding out just how profoundly
people will embarrass themselves for the warm glow of the
camera and the promise of a fat payday. The nudity serves
as a nifty metaphor.
Allegedly the pilot for “the world’s most uninhibited
game show,” GAMES kicks off with an audition notice
in Backstage for attractive youngsters willing to bare
their souls (and more) on camera. And wouldn’t you
know it, ten million people show up. Like clockwork, the
instant the camera rolls, out come the sob stories, off
go the clothes, and here come the simulated sex acts—all
before a crowd of hormonally crazed onlookers.
That huge turnout at the open audition should tell you
how deeply Reality TV has taken root. There are so many
ideas for these crapfests and so many channels desperately
looking for the next groundbreaking ratings grabber, that
it seems perfectly normal for a dude with a soul patch
to tell you to walk around Midtown asking strangers for
Or to seduce delivery guys, or to see how far you can get
with a fame-crazed starlet...Between the game segments,
each of the six contestants is grilled by two “celebrity
judges” (Dr. Gilda Carle and Jim Caruso), whose job
it is to get the contestants to open up about some sick,
depraved element of their godforsaken lives...Thanks to
these interviews, we learn just how messed up the contestants
are, and the effect is remarkable.
By the end, you'll
be looking at the boyish Whitney with respect for his
ability to build a premise and follow through
with it. Besides, just how much of entertainment is not
exploitation? Actors have been compromising themselves
since Aristophanes, and reality TV has only served to deconstruct
the process. I’d like to think it wasn’t accidental
for Whitney to include that quote from the initial audition,
from the guy who complains, “You treat actors like
We all have our ideas of what talent means, but self-promotion
is probably the most crucial and underrated skill of
them all (see Ciccone, M)...I’ll tell you what
you'll be: titillated!
Games People Play: New York
Oh, reality TV...
falling short of committing murder and rape, can the "contestants" in director James Ronald
Whitney's reality game-show-format movie, "Games People
Play: New York," really go too far in answering "How
far will performers go for fame and fortune?" Well,
there are no Tijuana donkey shows, but they do leave a jaw
or two hanging, I'll give 'em that. Over a period of 72 hours,
a group of six sexy young performers--Joshua Coleman, Sarah
Smith, Scott Ryan, Dani Marco, David Maynard, and Elisha
Imani Wilson--go from auditioning to all sorts of thespian
tests that push the limits of their inhibitions (or rather,
lack thereof), both emotionally and sexually, for points
toward a $10,000 prize. The "games" range from "Jackass"-esque
pranks on the unsuspecting public to EST-style emotional
confessions. And there's tons of nudity and saucy antics.
It may not seem much money when held against record high
gas prices, but $10,000 still buys you a whole lot of exploitation.
Aided and abetted by entertainer Jim Caruso and TV therapist/author/professor
Dr. Gilda Carle, Whitney seems determined to make us laugh,
cry, and wince as his showbiz hopefuls clamor for that cash.
The most successful sequences are also the most morally questionable: à la "Candid
Camera," the female contestants are to seduce a deliveryman
into a sexual situation, at which point a male actor bursts
in and pretends to be the agitated boyfriend, all in hopes
of panicking the suckered deliveryman. Most of the deliverymen
don't appear to speak English so they're puzzled more than
panicked when the "boyfriend" storms in...Amalgamating
his apparent love of musical theatre, Whitney has contestants
lure horny guys up to a hotel room for what appears to be
a threesome but ends up a musical number...showtunesque theme
songs (most of which Whitney co-wrote) that reek of a crosseyed "I
wanna be a star! Love me!" urgency. Fathers and mothers,
hug your friggin' children more, OK? That said, the actors
do ultimately betray more promise than nude musical numbers
suggest (Coleman, the blonde pretty one Rex Reed has gushed
about shamelessly, appears in the second GPP installment, "GPP:
Hollywood," which is in post-production). And I'm secretly
looking forward to the promised third entry, "GPP:
Games People Play: New York
It tickled Rex Reed!
James Ronald Whitney’s "Games
People Play: New York City" begins with auditions
for what the director-host calls "America’s
Most Uninhibited Game Show."
culls hundreds of desperate New Yorkers down to just
six, competing for a few thousand
dollars...Satire or nudity-strewn weirdness? Subversion
or embrace of the tacky historical moment? Yes, yes, yes,
and yes. They’re doing it all for you.
"GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: NEW YORK
Games, which director James Ronald Whitney allegedly filmed
to serve as a television pilot pitching "America's
most uninhibited game show," is the latest addition
to the reality genre...in which carrots are dangled, dignity
is lost, and humanity is gleefully ushered into a deeper
circle of hell...in 72 hours, beginning with the line of
hopefuls who answered his call for six actors aged 21-30
who were "in shape and attractive." The film then
proceeds like a cross between Candid Camera, Fear
Factor, and Taxicab Confessions, with the final contestants
in ridiculous contests such as "Casting Couch" and "Naked
Trio." Fans of the reality genre will likely be entertained
by Whitney's creation--which has already been turned into
a franchise--though there's a little more going on here
than the usual hoop-jumping by people desperate for their
The uneven tone of Games makes it difficult to know whether
he wants you to laugh at these people or feel sorry for
them, and a final twist adds a wink...!"
Games People Play: New York
"See them cry! See them get
naked!...for a shot at $10,000!...Host-director James
Ronald Whitney auditions...actors for the 'most uninhibited
game show ever.' Then three male and three female
fame-seeking contestants engage in a series of risqué,
hidden-camera-style pranks and some probing, tear-soaked
interviews about their screwed-up lives!"
Pick for 2004
"Games People Play: New
York, Emmy Award winning director James Ronald Whitney's
look at what people will do for money, will be released
in March by FabiLuce Films. This wild and uninhibited film
tells the story of how far actors will go to win $10,000.
Hint: they will go verrrrrrry far
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
Ostensibly a pilot
for a reality TV show, this weird documentary pushes
the genre to the extreme. "Casting three leading
men and three leading women (one of whom will earn $10,000
in 72 hours). 21-30, non-union, in shape, attractive, uninhibited," reads
the classified ad. After weeding out scores of freakish
non-starters (a game septuagenarian; an ingénue
sporting a red clown nose), director James Ronald Whitney
narrows the hopefuls to a few dozen...Then, reminded that "uninhibited" means
more than baring skin, they bare their souls. Tears flow
as each in turn comes clean about bulimia, rape, and attempted
suicide, disclosures voiced over footage of them pimping
and primping earlier in the audition, to jarring effect.
The final six must
perform tasks offering comic relief, such as procuring
urine samples from strangers on the street
or enlisting strangers to come to a hotel room for a "naked
trio." Between the laughs come more stark confessionals:
Tourette’s syndrome; male prostitution; murdered
parents. More shocking than these realities, though, is
the director’s bald-faced cynicism. (97 minutes)
-By Mike Miliard
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
often wondered what if anything will end the reality television
craze. We’ve seen shows that involve contestants eating
worms, shows that encourage and endorse infidelity, and
shows that deceive and mislead. A reality show in which
contestants are paid to kill each other has yet to be produced
(although Daniel Minahan’s film, Series 7:The Contenders
may seem prescient someday). While James Ronald Whitney’s
(Just, Melvin: Just Evil) Games People Play: New York doesn’t
offer this, he does present us with six of the most uninhibited
actors ever caught on film...
starving, fledgling actors via for the ultimate prize, a
relatively paltry ten thousand dollars. Over the span of
three days, these thespians have to engage in a variety
of social experiments that put their acting skills to the
test. Collecting urine samples from pedestrians, simulating
a casting couch encounter, and singing naked are but a few
of their tests. If the participants perform well, they accumulate
points that will get them closer to the ten thousand dollar
purse. They are also exposed to grueling interrogations
at the hands of the judges (a psychotherapist and a middling
theater critic) as they try to dig into the psyche of the
Sarah Smith, Joshua Coleman,
Dani Marco, David Maynard, Scott Ryan, and Elisha Wilson
comprise the cast of Games People Play: New York. To their
credit, all of them are fairly effective in playing their
respective roles, which is essentially playing themselves,
although an interesting twist in the end sheds light on
just how gifted some of these young actors are. Their skills
really shine during the interrogations in which many of
them share intensely intimate, personal, and often disturbing
parts of themselves.
Disturbed is how I felt through
most of the film...Whitney asks those who are auditioning
to do an improvised love scene on stage in front of the
audience. The love scenes become racier and racier until
the whole auditioning process effectively becomes a mass
orgy replete with nudity, simulated penetration, toe sucking,
and the like...
Perhaps more disturbing was
the part of the audition in which Whitney forces aspiring
contestants to make themselves emotionally vulnerable on
camera. A young girl describes tearfully how she was sexually
molested. Another young woman describes in graphic detail
how she offered her ass as a peace offering to one of her
lovers and can only achieve pleasure from one who abuses
her. Whitney can’t really be held responsible for
this as these people auditioned of their own volition, but
it’s hard for me to believe during the editing process
that Whitney didn’t have some moral and ethical dilemmas
with his content.
Toe sucking. A threesome. And that’s just the first
fifteen minutes of the film Games People Play New York.
Temptation Island, beyond the seas where Shipmates sail,
there is a reality show so outrageous, it cannot be seen
"I think that viewing audiences are ready for my
concept," said director James Ronald Whitney, "a
concept that explores how far six people would go for fame
and fortune in America’s most uninhibited game."
Whitney, who won an Emmy Award in 2003 for the HBO documentary
Telling Nicholas, wanted to see if he could push six young
actors to reveal all, both physically and emotionally.
concept was to shoot a pilot for a reality TV show where
contestants would compete for $10,000.
He placed ads in New York papers for attractive, uninhibited
actors, and they came. Indeed, hundreds of hopefuls lined
up for an opportunity at self-flagellation in front of
"You treat actors like %@#*!" one
man yells at the judges as he is cut. This is before
collect urine samples from strangers, before they seduce
deliverymen for points and before singing naked with people
they just met.
After screening out
many "unphotogenic" auditioners,
round two begins innocently enough as the actors are told
to pose in front of the cameras and be as carefree as possible.
Quick camera cuts show the mugging, straining and strutting
of the actors as they try to distinguish themselves from
The film’s tone darkens when contestants are asked
to tell the judges something true about themselves that
they’ve never told anyone else. One woman tells the
judges that she was raped, another was molested as a child,
and a young man says he is a male prostitute because he
feels he has no other choice.
Surely the contestants on other reality shows have similar
stories. What makes Games People Play New York different
is that here the whole truth is exposed, not just the made
for TV version.
When there is nothing left to reveal emotionally, contestants
are asked to improvise an uninhibited, erotic, three-minute
love scene. This includes a young woman that strips bare
and fakes an orgasm as a nude man sucks her toes; two women
having sex on stage; and for three minutes, two men making
At the end of this round, the final three male and three
female contestants are chosen. All of them are struggling
actors: (from left to right) Sarah Smith, Dani Marco, Joshua
Coleman, Scott Ryan, Elisha Imani Wilson and David Maynard.
The real lives of the six contestants are actually more
complex than most fictional characters in films. (Ryan's)
father was imprisoned for a violent crime when he was young.
His stepfather abandoned the family and he was raised in
foster homes. Nonetheless, he managed to graduate from
an Ivy League university and win the bodybuilding championship
title of Mr. Penn while still in school. Games People Play
New York was the first feature film for which he auditioned.
Another standout in
the cast is Smith. She began acting at the age of 15,
formerly hosted her own extreme sports
show, was a financial news anchor and performs stand-up
at Caroline’s Comedy Club. She is a lead in the upcoming
movie Remedy which features Vincent Pastore and Frank Vincent
of HBO’s The Sopranos.
Despite all their professional training, nothing could
have prepared the actors for the day the games began. After
they were chosen as finalists, they headed straight for
a hotel where they spent the weekend.
The men’s first
assignment? Nothing unusual, just a test to see who could
collect the most urine samples
from strangers. The first challenge for the women was a
little easier, as they were told to keep up a conversation
with a stranger in a neighboring stall of a public restroom.The
male and female contestants were then paired up and instructed
to pick up a man, coax him back to their hotel and teach
him a song and dance routine in the nude.
After the prize was
awarded to the cast member with the most points, and
after the film credits rolled, the question
one might ask is, "what have I just seen?" Nudity,
exploitation, frustration, desperation and how far people
will go in pursuit of a dream.
In other words, Games People Play New York can best be
described as an introductory course in voyeurism. TL
Play: New York"
"...The perversely watchable "Games" is
a big-screen...TV pilot of sorts for a reality series where
contestants do things like get people on the street to
hand over urine samples. When they aren't doing that, they're
taking off all their clothes or getting apparently unsuspecting
deliverymen to do likewise. Unrated, the film includes
rampant full frontal nudity and scene after scene of simulations
of various sex acts, two involving girl-on-girl or guy-on-guy
At the 2000 Sundance
Film Festival, Whitney debuted "Just,
Melvin: Just Evil," his finely crafted, detailed documentary
about his sexually abusive grandfather, who inflicted intense
pain upon his family.
...the "Games People Play" franchise might well
continue. There is already a "Games People Play: Hollywood" and "Games
People Play: The Bible Belt" in the works..."
-By Bob Longino
Movie review: 'Games People Play'
"...From "Survivor" to "Fear Factor" to "American
Idol," people are willing to expose themselves...for
30 seconds of fame.
"Games People Play," a
movie/game-show pilot/reality program by director James
Ronald Whitney, only furthers
this trend by layering deception and faux sexuality in
Whitney gathers together six "contestants" from
100 or so attractive actors, ages 21-30, who are willing
to be "real" and "uninhibited"...He
then sends them on a series of scavenger hunts, including
collecting urine samples from the general public and later,
luring strangers into a "naked trio." Winners
of this...receive $10,000.
The "naked trio" gag,
in which strangers expect sex but instead get a nude song-and-dance
in a hotel room, inspires the sharpest laughs...A few lines
from its theme song..."Being uninhibited will make
me go far / And if I go to hell, at least I'll be a star!"
-Robert K. Elder
People Play: New York"
Let me just say that this
movie couldn't have come out at a better time. "Games
People Play: New York" is an uninhibited and unrated
look into the world of reality game shows, which offers
us a glimpse into the lives of 6 actors who will do ANYTHING
to become a star....while competing for a cash prize at
the same time. This movie is a must-see for all reality
t.v. fans. SEE THIS FILM!
-by Movie Guy
the Monopoly and Parcheesi of yore, the televised mind
game is the sport
du jour. And in keeping with the contemporary thirst
for the voyeuristic, sadistic reality show, Games People
is a brain fuck of the highest order.
Whitney's film originated with
an ad placed in a Manhattan paper looking for "in shape, uninhibited, attractive" actors
to compete in a filmed game show for a $10,000 prize. The
anxious thespians were soon snaking around the block, vying
to audition. The film's lip-smacking preference for sadism
is set early on when one of the game's two judges, publicist
Jim Caruso...balks at his assignment to tell the older,
out-of-shape members of the line to scram...
In a series of hazing rituals...the
actors chosen to stay are asked to perform increasingly
disturbing stunts founded
on public nudity and emotional purging. Whitney's "auditions" include
having participants dredge up painful memories of childhood
rape, bulimia, prostitution and mental illness. Next, the
actors are asked to disrobe...the actor's life as a masochistic
racket defined by painful self-disclosure followed by "don't
let the door hit you on your way out" rejection...
The ultimate objective of these brutal, crotch-bearing
tribulations is...how depressingly low people will go...in
pursuit of fame.
Whitney began his career
with a critically admired documentary, Just Melvin: Just
about his family's legacy of sexual
-BY FELICIA FEASTER
Games People Play: New
York (NOT RATED)
Capitalizing on the reality show genre, "Games People
Play: New York" is a look at what people will do for
fame. A film crew puts an ad in a newspaper in Manhattan
asking for good-looking people who are willing to take their
clothes off, and it's amazing to see the oddballs who show
up...and there's no moral barometer to keep people from
going too far...First, the actors are paired up to do a
dramatic couples scene which requires some nudity. Some
of the teams are male/female, but some are same-sex teamings
depending on the luck of the draw, requiring men and women
to kiss and simulate sex in homoerotic circumstances, sometimes
The concept by James Ronald
Whitney looks like it's going to be a series, going to cities
across the country to see who can get people to do the strangest
and most bizarre things. The final six in the contest go
out on the streets to get people to do things like pee in
a cup for them or be part of their "Naked Trio"
act where they're pulling someone off the street to film
nude while performing a ridiculous dance.
Some of the final six are
star material. Josh Coleman and Sarah Smith are extremely
cute (they're the most revealing on the movie poster), but
can they parlay this into "American Idol" fame?
And if they can, won't they be embarrassed when their naked
pictures turn up all over the Internet? Or maybe, that's
part of the audition process...
-By Mike Szymanski
"Games People Play:
New York...Written and directed by award-winning documentary
(``Just, Melvin,'' ``Telling Nicholas''), ``Games People
Play: New York'' is provocatively billed as ``America's
most uninhibited reality TV show.''
In truth, it is a freak show that should be studied by
mental-health specialists. It features aspiring male
and female actors
in New York who respond to an ad for young, attractive
people not averse to nudity.
The cruelty of the process begins almost at once as
unattractive aspirants, some of whom respond with hostility,
sent packing. Dozens of people make the first cut and
participate in skits involving nudity and simulated sex.
The final six aspirants will do anything to reach their
goal of fame and success. This includes luring strangers
off the street to join them and their partners in ``threesomes''
(don't do this at home, kiddies) and revealing their
deepest, darkest secrets as long as a camera is running
and turned on them...``Games People Play: New York,''
which has spawned ``Games People Play: Hollywood,'' is
a complete success in one respect: It is a perfect marriage
of exploiters and exhibitionists...!"
by James Verniere
Games People Play
Imagine an episode of Fear Factor...with all the stunts
and bug-eating replaced
by naked seduction role-playing and painful soul-baring
confessionals extracted by two cold-hearted judges who
are sorta like American Idol's Simon Cowell... Ostensibly,
this is supposed to be a reality game show, with mostly
unclothed guests...(collecting urine samples from strangers
is the first task) for $10,000... Yes, you see plenty of
beautiful people naked... There's an interesting turn of
events near film's end...two more of these things are planned.
Games People Play: New York
Anyone who knows anything about the television industry
is aware that there is a
cyclical nature to it. Back in the early 1980s, there was much discussion over
the death of the traditional sitcom and then along came "Cosby" and
half-hour series enjoyed a resurgence. Then it was the hour-long drama that
was endangered. Because production costs were becoming exorbitant, network
executives embraced "reality" programming, something that first found
a niche on cable channels (e.g., "The Real
World" on MTV). Last year, there was an attempt to cash in on this craze
with The Real Cancun and From Justin to Kelly (featuring the winner and runner-up
of the initial "American
Idol" competition), but both failed at the box office. Now, however, there
is a fascinating and enjoyable movie that manages to evoke the freewheeling
exuberance of cable
like HBO's "Taxicab Confessions") with the classic American game
Games People Play: New York is the brainchild of James
Ronald Whitney who first
garnered attention at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival with his uneven but unflinching
documentary Just, Melvin which dealt with incest and a highly dysfunctional
family. That HBO-produced film went on to a theatrical release before debuting
on cable. Whitney's next project was the Emmy-winning documentary "Telling
how one family coped with the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Now for his first
quasi-fictional movie, he opted
to create a "pilot" for a proposed TV reality series -- an uninhibited
game show in which contestants would compete for cash. Whitney placed ads in
the local trade papers and set about casting the project. He engaged New York-based
cabaret performer Jim Caruso and relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle (the 21st-century's
answer to Dr. Joyce Brothers) as judges.
The film, shot on video
in documentary style, begins with prospective performers
lining up for the audition and the inevitable weeding out
of those not deemed unsuitable. Eventually there were over
100 applicants who were asked to pose for the camera and
then speak about their lives, a sequence that owes a great
to the Michael Bennett-directed Broadway musical "A
Chorus Line." Then the perspective
entrants were asked to act out a scene between a honeymooning couple. Many
opted to shed their clothes and their inhibitions on camera.
Finally six finalists -- three men and three women -- were
chosen to compete for a cash prize of $10,000.
Then the fun really begins. The sextet is divided into
teams and given tasks to
accomplish, ranging from the men being asked to obtain urine sample from strangers
to couples having to convince a third party to return to a hotel to partake
in something called "a naked trio." Between tasks, Dr. Gilda and
Jim Caruso interview the
contestants about their lives with each eventually divulging dark secrets, including
eating disorders, a side career as a paid escort, and the impact of the death
of a parent.
The six aspiring performers, Joshua Coleman, Scott Ryan,
David Maynard, Dani
Marco, Sarah Smith and Elisha Imani Wilson, are all charismatic and quite brave
in their willingness to bare not only their bodies but their souls.
Like any good reality show
Games People Play: New York employs several twists, including
an especially clever one at the end. Whitney and his talented
cast provide a fun, fascinating and ultimately rewarding
look at what might turn out to be a
must-see cinematic series. There's already a sequel Games People Play: Hollywood
another in the works. At this rate, Whitney may not need the small screen,
provided he can
continue to come up with new surprises to his game show.
Running time: 96 minutes
By Michael Machosky
You either love unscripted "reality TV" or you
hate it...Emmy-winning documentarian James Ronald Whitney...loves
the concepts, but doesn't think they go far enough. So,
if you find "Elimidate" too chaste and chivalrous, "Fear
Factor" too timid and tame and "Survivor" too
dependent on clothing, Whitney has created "Games
People Play: New York."
Naked emotion, naked ambition and, of course, naked bodies.
If this sounds interesting to you, you're probably not
alone. After putting a tiny ad in the paper for totally
uninhibited actors, Whitney gets a massive turnout of young
showbiz wannabes, which he culls down to just the good-looking
ones. After each of them do a few basic acting exercises,
he asks each to improvise a three-minute "love scene" with
another actor. They quickly start to realize that a virtuous
approach is not what the judges are looking for, so the
simulated sex scenes keep getting steamier, weirder and
closer to the real thing. Three guys and three girls are
chosen. They have to compete in the Games, and whoever
wins gets $10,000.
One game that the guys have to play is that they have
to convince random New Yorkers on the street to give them
urine samples, which they tell them is to pass a drug test.
They have cameras hidden in their glasses to capture people's
reactions. In another game, whichever girl seduces a delivery
boy the fastest -- getting him naked -- wins. And so on.
The contestants also are interviewed by a pair of judges,
who get them to reveal their life stories, which include
bulimia, male prostitution, and hiding under the bed while
your unemployed father is killed by terrorists.
You're never certain if the "Games" are staged
or captured live. If it's live, it's an amazingly cynical
little social experiment...maybe "Games" is a
fictional parody of reality TV..."Games People Play:
Hollywood" is on the way, and "Games People Play:
Bible Belt" is casting in Pittsburgh this weekend.
|Director: James Ronald Whitney MPAA Rating: NR, but
R in nature for nudity, language Open auditions Open
auditions for 'Games People Play: The Bible Belt' When:
6 p.m. today; noon Sunday Where: Hilton Pittsburgh & Towers,
600 Commonwealth Place, Downtown Seeking: Six new performers
ages 18 or older
BY ROGER EBERT
Q. (Bill Stamets, Chicago)
reviewing "Games People Play: New York," you
wondered how many turn-downs the contestants encountered
en route to persuading off-the-street volunteers to go
along with their stunts. (Who would agree to supply a stranger
with a urine sample?)
I wondered, too, and asked director
James Ronald Whitney that same question after a screening
at the Landmark Century
Cinema in Chicago. He said there were none! Every person
approached on the streets of New York City went along with
the stunts and never stopped to ask, "Hey, are we
on camera?" That shows how convincing the actors were...
each set-up came to its conclusion, the actors pointed out
the cameras and convinced these strangers to sign releases.
Getting signed releases was a key obstacle for the contestants.
Whitney saluted the actors' hard work -- blocking for multiple
hidden cameras, following scripts, having almost no rehearsal
or sleep, and doing scenes with non-actors. "I look
upon this as the Olympics of acting," Whitney said.
brought along actor Hans Christianson, who will Star in Whitney's
upcoming Film "Games People Play: Hollywood" and
Christianson Testified: "I feel so confident about
my acting now. I think I can do anything someone ever asks
A. (Roger Ebert) I believe that he can.
I'm not sure that he should.
Games People Play: New York (NR; 1:37)
Set up like a hilarious reality show, six actors coerce
various individuals into performing outrageous stunts
in order to win $10,000 and a shot at fame. The catch?
All the actors have skeletons in their closet that will
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New
It's a movie about a reality
games show, and maybe it's just playing us...Director James
Ronald Whitney trolled
the streets of New York looking for three men and three
women who met three crucial criteria: They had to be attractive,
in-shape, and uninhibited. I lose on all three. Fortunately
for Whitney, there were plenty of young men and women,
mostly aspiring actors, willing to prove their uninhibited,
Sold on the premise that
this is a pilot for a TV game show (with $10,000) for the
winner), dozens of hopefuls each make a quick video and
traumatic experience or condition: bipolar disorder, anorexia, tampon turmoil,
The six contestants to
emerge from the field then compete for points in several
games...The movie has some nice quirky moments as a study in sociology
and human psychology...
Whitney is ready to strike
again with "Games People Play: Hollywood." He
says he'd like to see it become a regular TV game show. The hardest thing
to believe is that it isn't one already!