Nine short stories relocating the settings from Carver's Northwest to Los Angeles during a spraying of malathion brought on by a Medfly epidemic - intercut tales of disconnection and emotional emptiness. The stories concern variations upon the theme of Los Angeles angst --a happily married couple, Ann and Howard have to deal with the deep emotions felt when their child, Casey is struck by a car before his birthday and lapses into a coma, while the baker Andy of their child's neglected birthday cake sinks into a rage and torments them in their grief. Three men Stuart, Gordon and Vern leave on a much anticipated fishing trip, only to discover the drowned body of a nude woman floating in the river and decide to finish their fishing trip and ignore the corpse. A Los Angeles cop, Gene uses his badge as an excuse to cheat on his wife, Sherri. A pool cleaner Jerry resents his wife, Lois for her part-time job as a phone sex performer. A waitress, Doreen is devoted to her limousine driver ... Written by
A classic bit of Altman - the story of cross-cutting lives over several days in LA. Featuring an all-star cast featuring a host of great character actors including Tim Robins, Julianne Moore, Jennifer Jason Leigh to name a few.
The performances are wonderful without exception (even Andie McDowell does OK). The intertwining stories are interesting up until the end - three hours goes past almost effortlessly and unnoticed. My only problem with the film is the lack of any real emotional punch or meaning in all of the stories. The majority of the stories have the potential for strong emotions to draw the audience in but the majority don't let it out too much (like real life I suppose), the one story that does let the characters feel (the story of McDowell's child) is not that convincing. Some of the stories don't make a lot of sense and don't feel based in reality. Compared to Magnolia, Glengarry Glen Ross, 12 Angry Men and other ensemble pieces this engages on an interest level but lacks an emotional involvement. I know that this is often on critic's top-ten lists but I felt that interesting stories and great acting do not make up for the lack of an emotional centre to the film. And the conclusion makes very little sense in relation to one of the stories in particular.
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