Filmmakers have been trying for years to capitalize on the growing popularity of poker, and by and large have missed the mark. However, the one movie that seemed to actually get it was relatively unknown and we are referring to the 2008 poker movie The Grand.
The Grand was a “mockumentary” style film by Zak Penn that explored the world of professional tournament poker. It starred Woody Harrelson as One Eyed Jack Faro and had a ensemble cast that included Cheryl Hines, Chris Parnell, Michael McKean, Gabe Kaplan, and others.
The movie centered around the World Championship of Poker, known as the Grand, and the story of the players participating in the even. Harrelson played Jack Faro, a notorious screwup whose only saving grace is his skill at the game of poker. He is trying to save his casino that he inherited from his grandfather and subsequently ran into the ground.
While much of the story focuses on Faro’s character, it also spent a great deal on the lives of other major player which included Cheryl Hines character of Lainie Schwartzmann. She plays a female poker players trying to prove herself in the world of poker all while trying to maintain a normal family life.
After learning about the characters and a good deal of buildup, the actual tournament begins to unfold. Viewers are treated to what seems like an over-the-top characterization of poker tournaments or the World Series of Poker. However, for anyone that has ever played in a poker tournament, they know that this is a case of art almost imitating life.
There are a ton of inside jokes in the film that poker players and those that know poker will immediately catch. Those of you that are actually involved in poker for a living will appreciate some of the really obscure jokes, including the one involving Chris Parnell’s character of Harold Melvin berating his opponent for clearly “not knowing how to calculate pot odds.”
If you have never heard of this movie, realize that it is largely unscripted and that the characters improvised a lot in this film. Also, the final table of this film was actually played out by the players and not scripted. As such, the directors were forced to film more than one ending to the film as it does not quite turn out how you think.
While The Grand is not your typical comedy or even your typical poker film, it is a film where it is clear that its producers actually understand the game of poker and its players. If you are a fan of poker or just want to see a good comedy, check out The Grand.