In the book, when Kevin is introduced to the blackjack team of MIT, he seems to accept everything that is happening around him quite easily. He admits to having done some previous “reading on the subject”, having some know-how about blackjack and even going as far as to explain his theories and so showing his interest in the game (Mezrich). When he is invited “to come aboard”, he seems a bit anxious stating that the whole business seemed wrong (Mezrich). He is told it is legal and even though he knows that it is still cheating, he is thrilled at the idea of finally doing something which he would have never even dreamed about doing before. His father is out of town and with no authority figure around to keep him grounded – and after reaffirming that he would not actually get in major trouble – he agrees to join the team.
Ben, on the other hand, is portrayed as a boy possessing a greater moral character. He refuses to become a part of the blackjack team even though he has more responsibilities than Kevin does. Ben has to work to earn $300,000 to pay his way through Harvard. Despite such a load and the realization that he could easily collect the grand sum by being a blackjack player in spite of the lack of knowledge of the game, he turns down the invite citing various reasons such as “a promotion at (his) job” which paid next to nothing and the 2.09 science competition that he had “been doing with (his) friends” (Luketic). It is when Jill Taylor – a girl he has liked from a distance – turns up at his workplace and gives a speech; he gets swayed by his emotions and gives in to the pressure, agreeing to become a team member. But even then he insists on participating in the team’s activities only until he has gathered the money needed if only to try to keep his conscience clear.
Both the book and movie adaptations show Micky Rosa coming into conflict with two different characters and he reacts in both the situations in quite a different manner because the movie’s portrayal of his character is not faithful to the book’s but has been adapted according to what would be popular amongst the viewers.
In Bringing down the House, there are continuous ups and downs between Micky and Fisher, the latter of whom wants more control over the team and an increase in their earnings. His ambitiousness reaches to the point that Fisher actually manages to vote Micky out of the group. Throughout the whole drama, Micky is calm and composed, taking “the news fairly well” (Mezrich). He, of course, might have been disappointed, hurt, angry and felt manipulated for being gotten rid of from the group that he had made himself but he does not display much of a negative reaction, in fact, seems as if he had expected it to happen sooner or later. He even gives some advice before leaving and wants to remain in good terms.
In 21, Ben lets his emotions get into the way resulting in him losing $200,000 in one night. Something similar happens in the book as well but not under the same circumstances so Kevin just spends the night regretting having lost such a huge sum. Ben, however, had continued playing despite being told not to repeat, thus leading to a huge row between the boy and Micky. Over here, Micky is very loud, blunt and to the point – “you are only as good to me as the money you make me” (Luketic). There is no control of emotions as shown in the book, instead, he screams at Ben getting furious to the point that he just walks out and leaves the blackjack team behind with promise of revenge given that Ben does not repay the lost money soon.
Both the portrayals of Micky’s character are different physically as well as in actions. The book has a Micky whose “clothes (are) almost as bad as his teeth” and who is a quiet person (Mezrich). The Micky in the movie is a Professor at MIT who is well dressed, witty and focused on the task at hand where business comes first and everything is not given much importance. He lives a double life of respectability by teaching at a prestigious institute over the weekdays and earning thousands of dollars through unfair ways during the holidays. His goal is to get as rich as possible and he will not let anyone come in the way. The representation of Micky is much more appealing to the viewers including me because of how fleshed out and even likable the character is depicted as.
21. Dir. Robert Luketic. 2008.
Mezrich, Ben. Bringing Down the House. Free Press, 2003.