A psychologically troubled novelty supplier is nudged towards a romance with an English woman, all the while being extorted by a phone-sex line run by a crooked mattress salesman, and purchasing stunning amounts of pudding.
Paul Thomas Anderson
Philip Seymour Hoffman
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>
After Paul Thomas Anderson had shown Cigarettes & Coffee (1993) at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival, he was invited to the Sundance Institute Filmmaker Lab. There, he shot a few scenes from this movie (John and Sydney in the diner, John calling Sydney from a payphone, the motel sequence with the hostage, and Jimmy threatening Sydney in his car). John C. Reilly and Philip Baker Hall played the roles they had in the film (John and Sydney respectively), while Moira Kelly played Clementine (played in the movie by Gwyneth Paltrow) and Courtney B. Vance, played Jimmy (later played by Samuel L. Jackson). The diner, payphone and car scenes all got edited and can be seen on the DVD release of the film, but the scene in the motel was not cut. See more »
When Sydney and Clementine are drinking coffee in the diner, Clementine's cigarette switches from her right to her left hand between shots. See more »
You know the first thing they should've taught you at hooker school? You get the money up front!
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Hard Eight (1996/Paul Thomas Anderson) ***1/2 out of ****
The camera opens to a diner called "Jack's Coffee Shop". A semi is pulling out of the parking lot. After it pulls away, two people are revealed. A young man sitting by the door with his face to the ground, and an older man who is walking towards him. Even though we can't see his face, we know he is old, just by the way he moves. He asks the young man if he would like some coffee and cigarettes. And this is how Paul Thomas Anderson's first film begins.
"Hard Eight" is about a down and out loser named John (John C. Reilly), who sits outside a diner, until he is encountered by a mysterious old man named Sydney (Philip Baker Hall). Sydney offers him $50, and a lesson in gambling. Before to long, they are in Reno, making lots of money. Then two people get in the way of their friendship: Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow), a hooker/waitress; and Jimmy (Samuel L. Jackson), a mischievous security guard who seems to be hiding something.
I never thought that Paul Thomas Anderson could make such a grounded film with substance. His usual films are flashy ensembles, and they move fast. But "Hard Eight" is a different story. It is a slow paced Film Noir, that is both quiet and observant. The cinematography is drab, and the direction is tranquil. Philip Baker Hall and Paltrow turn in good performances. But it is Jackson who really shines. The twist could have been over done, but instead, it is handled nicely and effectively.
"Hard Eight" is by far one of the most interesting character studies of the 90's. I like this cool side of Anderson, and I wish he would use it more often than his usual over the top formula (although I like both). This is no classic, but I found it worth buying.
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