The Grand (2008)

The Grand (2008)The Grand is an improvisational comedy film released in 2008 by Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film features an all-star cast of famous comedians and Las Vegas poker professionals. The Grand centers on the story of a live poker tournament at the Golden Nugget casino in Las Vegas.

The actors in The Grand play poker participating in a real poker hands as the scenes are filmed. Tournament winners were not predetermined, and the outcome of the hands ultimately determined the ending of the film.

The Grand was released on March 21, 2008, and has a running length of 104 minutes.

Cast and Crew of The Grand

The Grand was directed by Zak Penn and produced by Jeff Bowler. The original screenplay, numbering only 29 pages, was written by Zak Penn and Matt Bierman. Stephen Endelman composed the musical score for The Grand. The crew also included cinematographer Anthony Hardwick and editor Abby Schwarzwalder.

The Grand features an ensemble cast of familiar comedians and poker players. Most of the players have unique nicknames that give the viewer an idea of their character. Woody Harrelson stars in the film as "One Eyed" Jack Faro, also known as the Sentimental Favorite. Other stars include Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Cheryl Hines as Lainie Schwartzman (The Woman), David Cross as Larry Schwartzman (The Bad Boy), Richard Kind as Andy Andrews (The Unknown), Saturday Night Live’s Chris Parnell as Harold Melvin (The Lonely Genius), and Dennis Farina as Deuce Fairbanks, or "The Old Timer."

The supporting cast for The Grand is also star-studded. Viewers will be thrilled to see director Werner Herzog as The German, Ray Romano as Fred Marsh, Barry Corbin as Jiminy "Lucky" Faro, Michael McKean as Steve Lavisch, Gabe Kaplan as Seth Schwartzman, Andrea Savage as Renee Jenson, Estelle Harris as Ruth Melvin, Michael Karnow as Mike Werbe, Judy Greer as Sharon Andrews, Jason Alexander as Yakov Achmed, Brett Ratner as "Sob Story" Barry Blausteen, Hank Azaria as Mike "The Bike" Neslo, David Pressman as Melville "Murph Murph" Murphy, Tom Hodges as Tim "Tiny Wonder" Woolrich, and poker player/actress Shannon Elizabeth as Toni.

Several Las Vegas poker professionals make cameos in The Grand. These include Phil Gordon, Daniel Negreanu, Doyle Brunson, Phil Laak, Antonio Esfandiari, and Phil Hellmuth.

Plot Synopsis for The Grand

Woody Harrelson plays Jack Faro, a recovering drug addict prone to several past relapses. In order to permanently eliminate his addictions, Faro moves into rehab and decides to remain there. Humorously, Faro has had 75 past wives, and is currently on the lookout for his 76th. Near the beginning of the film, Faro makes a romantic advance on a bartender, who tells him that they’ve been married despite the fact that he doesn’t remember her.

Although Faro has plenty of flaws and vices, he’s a lovable character. Faro decides to enter "The Grand", a massive Texas Hold’em tournament at the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas. The manager of the tournament is Lucky Faro, Jack’s grandfather. Jack’s goal is to secure the 10 million dollar grand prize, which we be enough to pay off a loan he received from another casino owner. With the money, Jack plans to keep his family casino, The Rabbit’s Foot, in operation. Jack has poorly managed The Rabbit’s Foot, and he’ll have to sell the casino if he doesn’t win "The Grand". The other players in the film are suspicious of the fact that Jack is participating in a poker tournament when he partially owns it.

All of the remaining players in The Grand have earned their seats by winning in online poker satellite tournaments. Larry and Lainie Schwartzman are engaged in a sibling rivalry inspired by their father, Seth Schwartzman. Chris Parnell plays Harold Melvin, a tortured genius who is socially inept and lives with Ruth Melvin, his mother. Richard Kind plays Andy Andrews, a math teacher looking to strike it rich. The German is a card mechanic who sacrifices animals in order to gain luck.

Critical Reception for The Grand

The Grand wasn’t especially well-received by critics, with a current rating of 42% on the aggregate film review site Rotten Tomatoes, based on 35 reviews. Metacritic displays a more positive rating of 61%, with 13 reviews counted. Critics generally felt that the movie was grossly overlong given the subject matter, and that laughs were simply too sparse for a comedy.

By anyone’s count, The Grand was a commercial failure. The film had a budget of three million dollars, and made only $114,669 in gross revenue in the United States.

Filming Style for The Grand

The Grand is unique in that the players in the film improvised the majority of their lines and actions. Zack Penn decided to make the film in the style of the work of Christopher Guest, though the plot is certainly more open-ended than a typical Guest film. Penn gave each actor some direction regarding the nature of their character, but allowed each actor to simply play poker as they would in a normal tournament. As such, the outcome of the film is determined by luck, as well as each player’s ability to play poker.