John has lost all his money. He sits outside a diner in the desert when Sydney happens along, buys him coffee, then takes him to Reno and shows him how to get a free room without losing ... See full summary »
When two brothers organize the robbery of their parents' jewelry store the job goes horribly wrong, triggering a series of events that sends them, their father and one brother's wife hurtling towards a shattering climax.
Philip Seymour Hoffman,
A cab driver finds himself the hostage of an engaging contract killer as he makes his rounds from hit to hit during one night in Los Angeles. He must find a way to save both himself and one last victim.
John has lost all his money. He sits outside a diner in the desert when Sydney happens along, buys him coffee, then takes him to Reno and shows him how to get a free room without losing much money. Under Sydney's fatherly tutelage, John becomes a successful small-time professional gambler, and all is well, until he falls for Clementine, a cocktail waitress and sometimes hooker. Written by
Jon Reeves <email@example.com>
Paul Thomas Anderson's original title for this film was "Sydney". Since it was his first film, and he had basically no control over it (much less final cut, like he's had on his other features since), the studio, Rysher Entertainment, re-cut the film and retitled it "Hard Eight". This obviously enraged Anderson, and through many talks and deals, he convinced the studio to let him release his cut, but with the new title "Hard Eight". Anderson later said this experience taught him that doing your best to make the best possible movie was only "half the job" when being a director. The other half was dealing with all the egos involved. See more »
When John and Clementine leave the motel for their honeymoon in Niagara Falls they are driving a Chrysler product, possibly a Plymouth Gran Fury. The Chrysler "star" hood ornament is clearly visible as they leave. When they are driving across the desert, a view out the windshield shows a blue-and-white Buick Regal hood ornament. The character Sydney is driving a silver/blue Buick Regal. See more »
Very intimate and compelling - a splendid debut for PT Anderson
Though he is best known for two ambitious ensemble pieces such as Boogie Nights and Magnolia, writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson was first noticed thanks to a low-key, unpretentious character study, a gem called Sydney.
The film takes its title from the main character, a lonely elder man played by Philip Baker Hall. At a diner he runs into John (John C. Reilly), a poor fella who has just lost all his money. Sydney buys him coffee, and after a little chat he persuades him to come to Reno. Once there, they manage to get a free room and under Sydney's tutelage John quickly becomes a successful gambler. All's well until he falls in love with Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow), a waitress and part-time prostitute, and trouble ensues with a gangster named Jimmy, meaning Sydney will have to come up with something extreme to save his protégé.
For a first-time director Anderson shows great skills and confidence: even though he doesn't do much but follow four characters, he frames each shot to perfection and proves he is every bit as good as Scorsese at staging tracking shots (a thing he perfected on his next two features). But style doesn't really matter here: the important thing is that the audience cares for the story, and this essentially happens courtesy of sublime dialogue and great acting.
Anderson fought really hard to keep the movie's original title (and partially failed, which is why the film is known as Hard Eight in some countries), and the reason is clear from the beginning: the picture rests entirely on Hall's shoulders, and he carries it admirably. His performance is nuanced and genuine, and he manages to ensnare the viewer even when we are not sure what his motives are (and once they are revealed, it is not that important). Reilly is equally good, in a turn that opened his way to becoming one of the most reliable character actors in Hollywood, and the same intensity emerges from Paltrow and Jackson, the latter in particular adding extra dramatic flesh to what could have been a rehash of his more famous roles (Pulp Fiction etc.). Even Philip Seymour Hoffman, who has a brief but memorable role as a cocky gambler, gets his opportunity to shine, showing beyond any doubt that Anderson has a great eye for casting. He also knows how to write: the dialogue flows freely and seamlessly between the players, spawning some of the most affecting, realistic conversations ever heard in a movie, although the director can't resist the temptation to insert a couple of in-jokes as well (in one scene, Hall mentions two characters he wound up playing in Boogie Nights and Magnolia).
Overall, a very good film, and a must-see for PT Anderson fans: like many other directors who rose to fame in the '90s (Tarantino, Rodriguez, Bryan Singer) he proved right from the start what he was capable of, and has never disappointed the audience since that.
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