The great thing about gimmicks is that their shelf life is as long as a container of unpasteurized milk. Dutch shingle FCCE came up with what it calls “The Entertainment Experience,” whereby the public submitted screenplay ideas via a website to continue the kernel of a story. With Paul Verhoeven onboard, they produced “Tricked,” a mildly amusing medium-length soaper packaged with “Paul’s Experience,” a promo-style docu about the project, yet even the helmer says onscreen that the gambit doesn’t work without any structure to accommodate such random ideas. With no real application, this experiment is likely to remain a stand-alone stunt.Press handouts at the Rome Film Festival offered conflicting info, with one sheet claiming a 100-minute version exists, while another in the same package spoke of 25- and 43-minute versions for TV. Billed as the world’s first user-generated pic, “Tricked” began as a four-page script by Kim van Kooten, and was then continued by 397 selected participants who wrote, or at least guided, the direction of the remaining screenplay. FCCE plans on releasing the 53-minute version in Dutch cinemas together with “Paul’s Experience,” directed by Michael Greive, though the bundle will be more at home on smallscreens or streaming sites. “Paul’s Experience” is nothing more than a standard DVD extra/puff piece that would be better tacked on to the film’s end rather than at the beginning, since it gives away a major plot point. It’s probably also not wise to have Verhoeven explain why the idea of crowd-sourced script guidance doesn’t work, prior to showing the results of that experiment. Unsurprisingly, the helmer and collaborators sifted through countless suggestions from amateurs with no understanding of narrative arcs or character development before cherry-picking workable ideas and then giving them some shape — a maddening experience, besides being a monumental time-waster. That the end-product works at all is a surprise, but hardly proves “the wisdom of the crowd.” “Tricked” revolves around the 50th birthday of big-time construction company boss Remco (Peter Blok). Life at home with wife Ineke (Ricky Koole), daughter Lieke (Carolien Spoor) and son Tobias (Robert de Hoog) is tense, partly due to Remco’s inveterate womanizing, with things really heating up when his ex-mistress, Nadja (Sallie Harmsen), shows up pregnant at the party. Of course, everyone suspects Remco is the father, which suits Nadja perfectly since she and his biz partner, Wim (Jochum ten Haaf), then blackmail him into selling the company to Chinese investors. Only Remco’s affair with his daughter’s best friend, Merel (Gaite Jansen), seems to be going well, but she’s enjoying toying with a besotted Tobias. As with most soap operas, there’s a new plot twist every two minutes, suitable for a medium-length format but nothing longer. Discerning Verhoeven’s hand in it all is difficult, though true to the helmer’s more intimate style, it largely revolves around sex, and has a few fun plot twists, as to be expected when the script has 397 collaborators. Given that the thesps didn’t know where their characters were going, they deliver enjoyable perfs, matched by the TV-style lensing.
Tricked Directed by Paul Verhoeven. Screenplay, Kim van Kooten, Robert Alberdingk Thijm, Verhoeven. Camera (color, HD), Lennert Hillege; editor, Job ter Burg; music, Fons Merkies; production designer, Roland de Groot; costume designers, Yan Tax, Marie Lauwers; sound (Dolby), Antoin Cox, Mark Glynne; casting, Hans Kemna, Leonie Luttik. Running time: 53 MIN.