Matchstick Men (no Spoilers)

That’s a pretty huge assumption to make, akin IMHO to the “after we win, we’ll go back in time and set up the key” from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. If we’re meant to know that what you suggest we assume is what happened, it could have been established simply by having Roy notice he was either out or running low on pills and calling the supplier. That the filmmakers chose to rely on the accidental spillage of the pills presents me with a large problem. Not large enough to destroy the enjoyment of the rest of the movie but it does diminish the movie for me.

I enjoyed it, I agree with the above about the perfromances. Lohman nailed the uneven nature of a teenage personality, flowing from one emotion to the next seamlessly. I’m a big fan of Cage, he did a great job of mixing subtlety in with the mania.

Maybe it was just me making a lucky guess, but I felt they telegraphed the final act.

[spoiler]When Angie mentioned the gun, it felt like a major plot point.

Adding her to the sign-in sheet for the safe deposit box was a dead giveaway.

They made an attempt to couch these clues as bonding moments, but they seemed a bit obvious. Again, this may have just been me guessing it right, it’s kinda difficult to make an objective assessment now.[/spoiler]

[spoiler]I agree that they could have handled the spilling the pills down the drain differently to make the logic flow a bit better. My guess is that the filmmakers chose to go this way, not for the con, but to keep the dramatic pressure up. If he just notices he’s running low, the urgency is lower than needing them RIGHT NOW. But I can see your point; they could have figured out a way to get there that fit more logically, although I still personally don’t find it to be a huge stumbling block.

As far as the other assumption, I disagree greatly that it’s as glaring as the Bill & Ted example. Think of it this way; if we assume the opposite, that Frank hadn’t planned that part somehow, and it was just a coincidence, and he was just sitting around waiting for Roy to need a new shrink (and clearly knowing about Roy’s drugs and how he’s been getting them), it makes Frank a pretty complete idiot. And as we see, Frank is anything but an idiot. Yes, I agree that it would be nice to somehow have that part of the con filled in, but I just don’t see how they could have done it. I don’t see how your example, of having him running low rather then spilling them down the drain, changes that. Either way, it seems to me we still need to make a leap that Frank set that part up.

Anyway. Different people are bothered by different things. I’m still hung up on the phone call; this bothers you. I’m not saying you’re wrong, just saying it doesn’t bother me as much as it bothers you. I don’t find that leap to be as big as you do.[/spoiler]

I haven’t seen the film yet, but I read the book, and I figured out the “twist” about a quarter of the way in. At least it was a pretty short book.

The first and most obvious reason I figured it out is because in a story about con men you’re expecting a twist of some sort. At first it was just a hunch, but I was later dissappointed to see various clues pointing to my hunch being correct.

However, unlike the book which was pretty shallow and underdeveloped, the film sounds like a worthwhile view even if you know the ending beforehand. I’ll check this one out when it hits DVD.

I thought this was a fantastic movie. There could be a whole nother thread, though, called “What is it with Cage and Las Vegas?” The casting was great. I got half of the twist, but not the other half until right near the end:

[spoiler]I thought, early on, that Frank and the guy they were conning were actually conning Roy. However, the daughter and the shrink took me by surprise.

As for the coincidental timing, I don’t see that as an issue. You see several times that they are used to adapting plans as needed. Roy even tells Angela that these things never go according to plan, and that you have to be flexible.

So, what I see is that Frank has been trying to start this con - suggesting this new doctor to Roy. Once anything happens to make it start, he goes with it. Yes, in this case the pills were spilled. It could have been that Frank would have pointed out to Roy that they weren’t working. Or that Frank paid off the dealer to leave - or didn’t. It looked like he was willing to work on this awhile.

There is the bit about calling the ex; but if Roy had called, and told the shrink, what if the daughter turns up then, and says that the ex was lying? Roy was willing to believe it, after all. I’m not at all convinced that Angela was even planned until after Roy told his shrink about the ex-wife and the baby from years ago. I’ll bet the plan could have developed over time.

coyasicanbe, (or anyone else who read the book): did the book offer any other explanation about the “coincidences” that worked out?

[spoiler]One of the things they did well in the movie was show how a con-artist is always quick on his feet if the mark doesn’t act the way he wants the mark to, such as when Cage pretends to have a bad back in the airport lounge to get the guy to switch seats. I just assume that for a lot of these problems, such as the possibility of Cage calling his ex, Frank had contingency plans in place that he never needed to use.

I also suspect Frank paid Cage’s regular supplier to skip town. The fact that he spilled the pills down the drain served a different purpose: to show how far off the edge Cage goes when he’s unmedicated. We wouldn’t have gotten that scene if he’d called his supplier when he was running low and gone to the psychiatrist with a stash of a half-dozen pills back home. Spilling the pills was a more elegent way to accomplish both goals: set up the con, and show how dysfunctional the character really was.

Atrael: What Anamorphic said. We don’t even know how much of this con was planned before he set up Cage with the fake psychiatrist. Most of it might have been planned based on the knowledge Frank’s co-conspirator fished out of Cage’s head. We do know that Frank knew Cage had a lot of money. He says as much when he first tries to talk him into pulling bigger cons: “You’ve got plenty of money, I don’t” or words to that effect.

As for the danger of switching meds on him. Odds are, the other pills he was taking didn’t do anything, either. There was nothing chemically wrong with him: his disorder was entirely neurotic. If Frank was planning on pulling a con on his partner, he probably would have looked into his meds, and found out his partner was medicating himself with throat lozenges or something.

Because we never actually see any of the planning that Frank put into the con, only the results, we can’t really say what Frank forgot about or did wrong. And I think the movie works better for it: by not explaining anything, there aren’t really any plot holes to point out: everything can be adequately explained with, “Frank did it,” or “Frank planned for that, but it didn’t come up.” The only thing we’re explicitly told Frank set up was the doctor and the daughter. We’re never told that the mark in the money laundering con is in on it, because it doesn’t need to be stated. The con doesn’t make any sense if he’s not in on it. You can apply this to any aspect of the con that doesn’t make sense: if it wouldn’t have worked because of some detail, then that detail must have been set up by Frank.

For example, Cage gets his ex’s number from directory assitance, not from his shrink liked I’d thought. But who’s to say the number he got was really his ex-wife’s? Maybe Frank registered a number under a fake name, hoping that Cage would find it before he found the real number. All Cage gets is an answering machine (probably with a scratchy recording) of a voice he hasn’t heard in fifteen years, and that’s only for a few seconds before he finds himself talking to his “daughter.”

This sounds facile, but I think it works because the movie isn’t about the con, it’s about Cage’s character. It’s not how the con works that makes the movie, it’s how it affects the lead character.[/spoiler]

Anamorphic: Oh, I don’t know. I guess Fibber McGee summed it up well:

[spoiler]I was expecting something and the more besotted he became over his daughter, the more suspicious I got. I can’t remember what clinched it for me - probably when he gave his daughter the initial partial accopunt access for the safe deposit box, which seemed oddly unnecessary to do in front of her and so spur of the moment, except as a plot contrivance.

But I admit Alison Lohman was very good and I was entertained, despite it all. Could be I’m just too jaded as a moviegoer at this point in my long, dusty life.[/spoiler]

  • Tamerlane

[spoiler] Did anybody else notice that whenever the daughter cried, which happened several times, there were never any tears? I don’t think a director of Ridley Scott’s calibre would have let this go unless it was meant to tip us a little. That got me suspicious, but not Roy I guess. Only when he told her he was looking into partial custody do we see tears from her. Probably her conscience bothering her at that point, as she does seem to have a heart in the last scenes.

And yeah, giving her the safety deposit info, WAY to obvious in a movie about con men. I mean con artists. [/spoiler]

Giving her access may have been obvious (I didn’t catch on), but the fact that they based the con on this seems, well, lame. What if he doesn’t give her access? The character stuff was terrific; the con itself…meh.