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Film Title

Short Cuts


Robert Altman

Starring :

  • Andie MacDowell as Ann Finnigan
  • Bruce Davison as Howard Finnigan
  • Jack Lemmon as Paul Finnigan
  • Julianne Moore as Marian Wyman
  • Matthew Modine as Dr. Ralph Wyman
  • Anne Archer as Claire Kane
  • Fred Ward as Stuart Kane
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lois Kaiser
  • Chris Penn as Jerry Kaiser
  • Robert Downey, Jr. as Bill Bush
  • Madeleine Stowe as Sherri Shepard
  • Tim Robbins as Gene Shepard
  • Lily Tomlin as Doreen Piggot
  • Tom Waits as Earl Piggot
  • Frances McDormand as Betty Weathers
  • Peter Gallagher as Stormy Weathers
  • Annie Ross as Tess Trainer
  • Lori Singer as Zoe Trainer
  • Lyle Lovett as Andy Bitkower
  • Huey Lewis as Vern Miller
  • Buck Henry as Gordon Johnson
  • Lili Taylor as Honey Piggot Bush

Based on several stories by Raymond Carver, Short Cuts is Robert Altman’s intense, sprawling and minutely observed look into the eventful lives of 22 residents of L.A over a couple of days. Featuring a talented cast( as you may have guessed from the cast list above) that all contribute something to the story, Short Cuts works as an examination on the frailties of human behaviour, how people don’t realise how close we are to each other and how the smallest incident can have big consequences.

Without giving too much away and because I would probably need a lot of pages to write about all the stories, here is the brief outline of some of the stories. Doreen, a waitress struggles with her alcoholic husband Earl. To add to this she accidentally Short Cuts Earl and Doreenruns over the young son of news anchor Howard Finnigan. The boy’s mother Ann panics while her son slips into a coma, and she is harassed by the local baker Andy, as she has forgotten to pick up the boy’s birthday cake. Zoe, a talented yet depressed cello player lives next door and has a strained relationship with her musical mother, Tess. Gene Shepard, a single-minded policeman is playing away with Betty Weathers. This incurs the wrath of her estranged husband Stormy, who finds an interesting way to claim back what belongs to him in the house. Claire Kane works as a clown, while her short cuts Claire and Genehusband Stuart goes on a fishing trip with his friends. On the trip, the men discover the corpse of a young woman in the river and debate what to do with it. Marian, an artist and her doctor husband Ralph have the couple over for dinner, venting their marital frustrations after one too many drinks. And the stories just keep on coming, fleshing out an interesting mosaic like microcosm of lives running congruent with each other.

Although the film runs for a long time, you probably won’t notice because of the intricate way the characters enter and leave each other’s lives. Altman, who often worked effectively with ensemble casts, further shows his craftsmanship with engaging us to the strange and unpredictable characters. Although the characters differ from each other, there is one thread that links many of them. The thread is hiding behind a facade; Marian paints to suppress her unhappiness, Zoe plays mournful music on her cello, Claire works as a clown to make money for herself and her husband. The film may not be to everyone’s taste, but one can’t help but marvel at the way Altman connects the many players of the cast and fashions a suburban tale of frustration, mental angst and dissatisfaction.

An intimate character study of a diverse group of people, Short Cuts is excellent and recommended viewing for the art of interconnecting stories and focusing on the effects of our choices in life.