Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Director Of The Month Film Review: Paul Thomas Anderson - Hard Eight

Rating: 8/10 - Excellent

Released in 1996, Hard Eight is a strong start to director Paul Thomas Anderson's career. It allows John C. Reilly and Phillip Baker Hall to deliver good performances.
It also features Gwyneth Paltrow and Samuel L. Jackson.

The film is not a strict action or crime film but rather a human interest story. Anderson has shown courage by risking his debut feature, starring highly rated, if still up-and-coming actors, with an unconventional approach.

It tells the story of John played by John C Reilly, a young loser who has lost all of his money. He is feeling sorry for himself when gambling-maestro Sydney finds him, buys him coffee, and takes him to Reno. Sydney shows John how to get a free room without losing much money and to become a better gambler. Sydney's character is interesting because he has gambling skills but he also has a forced calmness which he tries to put on when acting as a father figure character to John. Sydney is actually a lonely man, looking for a family.

Years later, John meets Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow), a cocktail waitress and sometimes hooker. The story continues to be interesting from there one.

Even if some people may not enjoy the subdued overtone of the film, John C Reilly, is my favourite element in this film, shows that he can act well in serious roles. He was strong again in Anderson's films, Boogie Nights and Magnolia, a few years later.

Perhaps, Anderson will get a leading role out of him soon but Hard Eight is a powerful ensemble.

Baker Hall also deserves to be commended.

Hard Eight launched what has proven to be an impressive career for director, Paul Thomas Anderson. He may not make films that often - his last was released film was 2007's There Will Be Blood, but he's an exceptional talent.

Alistair Anderson

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