Last year, MTV Films floated The Real Cancun as a trial balloon to see if moviegoers would embrace big-screen reality programming. The film's dismal box-office numbers seemed to disprove the famous maxim about nobody ever going broke underestimating the intelligence of the public, but that hasn't stopped award-winning documentarian-turned-sleaze-merchant James Ronald Whitney from trying to pass off atrocious reality TV as a feature film with Games People Play: New York. To even call Whitney's loathsome experiment in degradation a movie is giving it too much credit, especially since the film pretty nakedly sells itself as a pilot for a prime-time reality show.
Pandering to its audience's worst instincts, the movie sends six actors and actresses, three male and three female, out on a series of risqué stunts generally involving nudity and/or promising or pursuing sex with strangers, ostensibly to determine which is the best thespian. The winner then receives a grand prize of $10,000, which isn't much to begin with, but seems especially paltry for a movie set in New York, one of the most expensive cities in the country.
The actors and actresses are chosen for their attractiveness and lack of inhibitions, both physical and emotional. Rape, childhood trauma, molestation, eating disorders, and male prostitution figure prominently in the teary-eyed "confessions" that dot the filmsome of which, for reasons known only to the filmmakers, are artlessly juxtaposed with the person in question mugging and vamping for the camera during a much lighter moment. Like many reality ventures, Games People Play has a surprise ending designed to call everything before it into question, but that twist, telegraphed well in advance, only makes the movie itself a tiny shred less abhorrent.
With its grotesque combination of exhibitionism and cynical manipulation, Games People Play sets a new nadir in the reality genre's race to the bottom. The price of sacrificing dignity for the amusement of the general public gets lower every day.