Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
"Tricked," an enjoyably soapy thriller, is for anyone who has wondered: Whatever happened to Paul Verhoeven? Verhoeven, the director of such consummately nasty social critique/genre films as "RoboCop," "Total Recall," "Showgirls," hasn't stopped working. In fact, he's got a new thriller starring Isabelle Huppert debuting in France this fall. He also made "Black Book," a perfectly grimy Dutch WW2 drama, back in 2006.
"Tricked," a 55-minute short film puffed up to feature-length by the addition of a half-hour behind-the-scenes featurette, is presented as a career rehabilitation of sorts: a commercial for Verhoeven's adaptability. During the film's otherwise superfluous making-of supplement, Verhoeven talks about how he and screenwriter Kim Van Kooten wrote a four-page scenario that introduces eight characters. Verhoeven and Van Kooten then crowd-funded plot suggestions, filmed numerous submissions, and cobbled together a narrative that suited Verhoeven's eccentric tastes. The result is a light but satisfying appetizer, one that will, for better and worse, leave viewers hungry for more.
"Tricked" begins as a blatant advertisement for Paul Verhoeven, versatile filmmaker. This part of the film is only interesting in that it doesn't reveal anything substantial about his personality or abilities. We see him smiling his way through suggestions and talking about how important it is to him to challenge himself creatively ("I personally trust that the unknown forces you to be creative"). Verhoeven's films actively mock authority, so you'd be forgiven for rolling your eyes as the director of "Starship Troopers" compares his collaborative process to a "democracy," then jokingly suggest to one actress that she lower her shirt ("We don't have to insist on that!"). Feel free to step out to the lobby for this part of the film.
The fiction portion of "Tricked"—the part you really paid to see—fares much better. Company man Remco's family life is thrown into chaos when ex-lover/secretary Nadja (Sallie Harmsen) reveals at his birthday party that she's eight months pregnant. Her news is not that shocking: Remco (Peter Blok) is a renowned philanderer, an inarguable fact that his disaffected teenage children Lieke (Carolien Spoor) and Tobias (Robert de Hoog) are aware of. Even Remco's cool-headed wife Ineke (Ricky Koole) seems to know more than she lets on, though at first we're unclear on how many details she knows. Nevertheless, Nadja's presence is inconvenient for Remco: his business partners are blackmailing him into selling his company's controlling stake, and teenage conquest/Lieke's BFF Merel (Gaite Jansen) wants more than a little attention.
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