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Rome Film Festival Review: Paul Verhoeven’s Crowdsourced Television Drama ‘Tricked’ Is An Amusing ‘Basic Instinct’ Throwback

Rome Film Festival Review: Paul Verhoeven's Crowdsourced Television Drama 'Tricked' Is An Amusing 'Basic Instinct' Throwback

The genesis of “Tricked” sounds like something Lars Von Trier might have dreamed up as part of “The Five Obstructions.” Paul Verhoeven was commissioned to make a user-generated film, the first four minutes of which were devised by the Dutch director; then the public was asked to write the next four minutes of script. From the submissions, one script would be chosen as the next segment before another call out was made, and the process would continue until there was enough material for an hourlong television film. Talk about high concept.

Of course, the plan was a bit too neat, and with way too many scripts being submitted and none being the perfect four-minute continuation, the project evolved. The basic concept remained the same: The public would decide the twists and turns of the story, but after each four-minute segment was released and the public was asked to pen new segments and plot twists, Verhoeven and his scriptwriting team of Robert Alberdingk Thijm and Kim Van Kooten would pen a few more pages before releasing these into the public domain for further ideas and comment.

This production process was recorded on a successful Dutch Television show and reported furiously on the internet. Now, it turns out there is also a 32-minute documentary, “Paul’s Experience,” detailing the process, which is scheduled to screen later in the week at the Rome Film Festival.

What’s most remarkable is that an entertaining romp has emerged from all the back and forth, one that carries the Dutch director’s signature, albeit with the penmanship being more “Basic Instinct” than “Starship Troopers.” Perhaps unsurprisingly given that the production process of “Tricked” demands the public propel the plot along with surprising narrative suggestions, the end result has more twists and turns than prom night, but thankfully the 52-minute running time is the perfect length to ensure that the melodrama never becomes tiresome or tedious.

Real estate tycoon Remco (Peter Blok) is given a diary by his wife Ineke (Ricky Koole) for his birthday, a dull present for a marriage that has long since been void of passion.  Even their young adult offspring Tobias (Robert de Hoog) and Lieke  (Carolien Spoor) can barely hide their contempt. This is a broken family barely keeping up appearances.

That evening, Ineke’s best friend and school pal Merel (Gaite Jansen) arrives at Remco’s 50th birthday party on her brand new scooter. Lieke reveals that the worst kept secret in town is that her womanizing father is having an affair. The mystery revolves around which of the young women at the party is the latest in a long line of mistresses. The suspicion is clearly on the flirty Merel, until the arrival of Nadja (Sallie Harmsen) a former mistress who has been living in Japan for the last six months. She is eight months pregnant. Wife Ineke reveals that while she can cope with all the affairs, if the baby is Remco’s then he’ll be spending a lot of time in the divorce courts.

Work is not much of a safe haven for the philanderer. His business partners Wim (Jochum ten Haaf) and Fred (Pieter Tiddens) have gone behind Remco’s back to set up a deal to sell the company to a group of Chinese investors. Just in case Remco doesn’t want to play ball, Wim has colluded with Nadja and they threaten to tell Ineke that he is the father of the baby unless he plays ball on the deal.

This is just the start of the shenanigans. The downside with all the emphasis being on storyline is the nagging feeling of watching the pilot episode of a television series that will never get made. The characters are all surface and, apart from the revelations about mother Ineke, all the other plot twists are so well signposted one could easily be at the junction on a freeway.

Nonetheless, Verhoeven must be commended for retaining a jaunty, light-hearted tone throughout. Peter Blok is fantastic as Remco, the only person who believes that his life is cloak and dagger. His failure at keeping his affairs a secret and the fact that no one cares is the ingredient that makes one realize this is a story devised by the nation that gave the world “Big Brother.” Criticwire grade: A-

HOW WILL IT PLAY? The producers hope that the concept sells to other nations. With far more potential than “Project Greenlight” as a reality TV show, with the right director on board, it could be a great series. As for “Tricked” itself, the 52-minute running time ensures that it has potential to do well on television, but a theatrical release is unlikely.

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