Robert Altman's jazz-scored film explores themes of love, crime, race, and politics in 1930s Kansas City. When Blondie O'Hara's husband, a petty thief, is captured by Seldom Seen and held ... See full summary »
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Robert Downey Jr.
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Robert Altman's jazz-scored film explores themes of love, crime, race, and politics in 1930s Kansas City. When Blondie O'Hara's husband, a petty thief, is captured by Seldom Seen and held at the Hey Hey Club, she launches a desperate plan to release him. She kidnaps the wife of a powerful local politician in an attempt to blackmail him into using his connections to free Johnny. Despite this being election time, he risks exposure by putting the political machine into action to free Johnny and thereby save his wife. Mrs. Stilton, meanwhile, has befriended Blondie and is impressed by her love and devotion to Johnny, especially in contrast to her own loveless marriage. Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
Robert Altman gathered together some of the greatest living jazz musicians, put them on a set representing the Hey Hey Club and asked them to play period material in the style of the Kansas City jazz giants like Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. He filmed this separately after he had done the fictional plotline, and then intercut it with the narrative. See more »
When Governor Guy Park is telephoned about the kidnapping, he suggests notifying the state police. Missouri has no state police (only Highway Patrol). See more »
If my mother was alive, she'd cut your balls off. Woman went right to the point. She never, ever missed a beat.
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Jennifer Jason Leigh plays a desperate woman who tries to rescue her boyfriend (Dermot Mulrooney) from the hands of local black mobsters led by Harry Belafonte, who have made him a prisoner after he robbed one of them. She kidnaps the laudnum addicted wife (Miranda Richardson) of a Roosevelt political adviser (Michael Murphy) in an effort to somehow get enough leverage to achieve her goal. The Kansas City of the Depression setting looks pretty real and wide open, not only for crime but also political fraud. Robert Altman made a great character for Steve Buscemi as a brutal political operative who's assigned to get out the vote by any and all means possible, including the use of baseball bats, but he failed to give him enough space. Nonetheless, he's just another part of this mosaic of the period, and does well enough with the meager scenes he has. Jennifer Jason Leigh is at the film's center while social, political, and economic forces swirl around her. She affects a Jean Harlow persona throughout the film, and in one scene is actually in a theater watching a Jean Harlow film. The tough girl act conceals her real life existence as yet another victim of the Great Depression of the 1930's. By the end of the film she appears on screen with her hair dyed platinum blond and in an all white evening gown, actually becoming the famous actress who died so young. While the film meanders around, going into and out of crooked politics, race, teen pregnancy, drugs, etc...and in and out of the Hey-Hey Club with the ongoing birth of blues and bebop, the ending that punctuates the kernel of a plot is quite an exclamation point and is well worth the wait.
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