By Lauren Stewart
The game of poker experienced an explosion of popularity after the 2003 WSOP win by Chris Moneymaker. Since that time, filmmakers have been trying to capitalize on the game’s popularity but have fell well short of that mark. Two films that were actually created as an attempt to parody the game actually wound up accomplishing more to capture the spirit of the game than any poker film since Rounders. Those films are the mockumentary films The Grand and Hitting the Nuts.
The Grand was a 2007 film starring Woody Harrelson that was the first film to poker fun at the game of professional poker. An ensemble cast that included Cheryl Hines, Dennis Farina, and Richard Kind took on roles of various poker pros looking to win The Grand, a tournament that mimicked the World Series of Poker.
What this film was able to accomplish that many other poker films failed to do is capture the essence of what is the modern game of professional tournament poker. It didn’t try to glamorize the game or make the players unrealistically cool. Instead, it presented players that appeared over the top but actually accurately showed how crazy the world of poker can really be.
An independent film on poker that came out in 2010 and that also took advantage of the mockumentary style of filmmaking was Hitting the Nuts. This movie took a different approach from every other poker movie that has come out in the last decade. Instead of looking at the game at the professional level, it dealt with small town amateur poker and looked at an annual poker tournament in a small town and the people that play the game.
Half of the movie is spent introducing us to the players and the players are truly an eclectic mix. Start with an Amish farmer with homosexual cows, throw in a middle-aged cougar, add a know-it-all and a crazy cat woman and you have an idea of the types of players in this event.
As the game progresses, the players wind up growing as people as a result of their participation in the game. None of the players in this game have any true aspirations of turning pro and are playing for the love of the game. Hitting the Nuts shows the reality of poker for many of us that play the game at the amateur level.
It seems that many poker film producers since 2003 have been attempting to create the next Rounders, which is considered one of the top five classic casino movies. Many of these films fall short of their intended mark. In the case of The Grand and Hitting the Nuts, the producers not only succeed at poker fun at the game we all love but also succeed in giving some of the most realistic portrayals of the game since the inception of the poker boom.