Monday, September 22, 2008

Hard Eight

Originally uploaded by uclastats
Hard Eight is the directorial debut of visionary filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson; like most of the movies I watch I really didn’t know what this movie was about when I popped it into my DVD player, but like most of PTA’s movies the blurb on the back of the cover really wouldn’t have done much to help.

The film is about a father-son relationship between Sydney and John. They are not blood relations but they meet one day at a diner in Vegas and Sydney for no apparent reason helps the down and out John get back on his feet by teaching him how to play the system in Vegas. The film them flashes forward to two years later when the two have established their familial bond and are now in Reno dealing with semi-success in their life style of gambling and a whole new set of problems brought on primarily by Jimmy a casino thug and Clementine a confused but warm-hearted hooker who becomes entangled in John’s life.

PTA excels at taking characters that are unsympathetic and making them sympathetic. Sydney is one of these characters. Though at the beginning of the film he appears to be an angel in waiting who graciously swoops into John’s life, PTA later reveals that Sydney is actually hiding something huge from John – the reason that he found him.

For anyone that enjoys Anderson’s style of filmmaking this is a must see. He uses many of his familiar players, and the work is beautiful. The oddest thing about this film is that while it feels like a PTA film it does hold the earmarks of being a first feature and you can see where he managed to evolve from Hard Eight.

Director & Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson
Sydney: Philip Baker Hall
John: John C. Reilly
Clementine: Gwyneth Paltrow
Jimmy: Samuel L. Jackson

Sydney: Tell me something. Are you required to flirt, to behave as you do toward that table of men over there? Maybe... it's some part of your job?
Clementine: Uh, they don't say to do it.
Sydney: But if you don't?
Clementine: Well, then I get questioned, like: "Why were so rude to them?", and, I mean, I can't talk back. I can't tell them to fuck off and leave me alone.
Sydney: As a rule?
Clementine: I'd also lose the tip.

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