𝕎𝕚𝕝𝕝𝕖𝕞 (𝕃𝕖𝕠) 𝕧𝕒𝕟 𝕕𝕖𝕣 ℤ𝕒𝕟𝕕𝕖𝕟’s review published on Letterboxd:
Let's cut to the case, Short Cuts is a brilliant film and it makes me sad I haven't watched more of Altman's ensemble-drama's yet. Most people, of course, only know about Short Cuts through the other much more famous, 90's, Los Angeles set, intertwining stories film, Magnolia. And while watching Short Cuts I couldn't help myself continuously comparing the two and continuously finding Short Cuts to be a way better film. Why? Because Altman does't do something that P.T. Anderson does do. Anderson made Magnolia incredibly polished. He used the cinematography, the acting and the editing to make the film jump out of it's grounded realism and make it much more enticing than should be expected from the stories he portrayed.
Altman on the other hand uses his source material, the short stories of the equally brilliant Raymond Carver, perfectly and keeps the stories as what they are, snapshots of life, showing the bizarre little things that can happen to us. But he never goes too far. He keeps it realistic enough and doesn't force the overall theme on us, like P.T.A. did with Magnolia. Of course there is a theme and it's basically the same, coincidence, but it's not the main focus. The main focus still is just people being people, often in their downright most filthy behavior. Only on a few occasions we see Altman break this steady mold as he gives very, overly polished, cinematic looks to a few very specific shots. But eventually that only makes it even more real. By giving extra notice too the special events, you make people wonder even more about the not so spectacular scenes that preceded it.
Now let's talk about those people, this cast shines like one hell of a bright diamond! For example we have Tim Robbins playing an adulterous cop who is even more of a dickhead than he was in Altman's The Player. We have Jennifer Jason Leigh as a wife married to poolcleaner Chris Penn, who works as a sex-line operator while attending her kids in her own living room. Next to that we have a cafetaria worker and her alcoholic lover and their ongoing disputes, a couple with their dying son and his grandfather who suddenly reappears after a twenty-five year absence, played by Jack Lemmon on God-mode (seriously, this is the best I've ever seen him do, I loved every seen he was in). And we even have young Robert Downey Jr. playing a man desperately on the hunt for some pussy while doing some pretty weird, fetishistic make-up stuff to his girlfriend. And that's only half of what is going on.
Some weird, yet somehow very understandable situations packed in a nice three-hour package, ready to grace your eyes. Five stars and no less!!