EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|CALIFORNIA SPLIT (director: Robert Altman; screenwriter: Joseph Walsh; cinematographer: Paul Lohmann; editor: Lou Lombardo; music: Phyllis Shotwell; cast: George Segal (Bill Denny), Elliott Gould (Charlie Waters), Ann Prentiss (Barbara Miller), Gwen Welles (Susan Peters), Edward Walsh (Lew), Joseph Walsh (Sparkie), Bert Remsen (Helen Brown), Barbara London (Lady on the Bus), Barbara Ruick (Reno Barmaid), Jay Fletcher (Robber), Jeff Goldblum (Lloyd Harris); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Robert Altman/Joseph Walsh; Columbia Pictures; 1974)|
|"Funny as hell."
by Dennis Schwartz
obscure rambling character study comedy that smartly
gets into a gambler's head and realistically catches
the highs and lows of the bleak racetrack, casino and
sporting worlds they frequent. It's filmed with a
series of vignettes and much amiable
colorful banter, that's brilliantly directed by
Robert Altman ("Nashville"/"Popeye"/"MASH") as a
celebration of gambling that is believable because the
gamblers are so expressively alive in their narrow
world. The enjoyable slice of life Americana story
just washes over you, if you allow it to, and is the
kind of unique and aimless film a bottom-line
Hollywood no longer green lights because it's too edgy
and too unpredictable at the box office.
about two LA residing compulsive loser gamblers,
separated upper-middle-class magazine writer Bill
Denny (George Segal) and low-life gambling bum Charlie
Waters (Elliott Gould), bonding after meeting at a
public poker game in a sleazy casino after Charlie's
winning hand is challenged by an irate player, Lew (Edward
Walsh), who falsely claimed a card dealt
by Bill to Charlie hit the floor and is therefore out
of play. After Lew is escorted out of the Vegas casino
by security for attacking Charlie and the boys are
mugged by the sore loser in the parking lot, they team
up to go on a gambling spree that takes them around
the LA area to Tijuana and to Reno. After
making a big kill in the Reno climax, one gambler is
puzzled that he's still left with an empty feeling
while the other remains stunted as a happy-go-lucky
idiot going around aimlessly in circles.
quirky, plotless and realistic atmospheric film that's
as funny as hell and also quite perceptive about
catching the gambler's psyche, the low-level gambler's
raunchy lifestyle and the sleazy places they hang out.
The script is by Joseph Walsh, who has a role
as a patient bookie now putting the squeeze on Bill
because he thinks he's being made to look like a
schmuck for not collecting sooner. Despite the script
in place, it seems as if much of it is improvised by
the marvelous stars.
supporting cast is equally brilliant, with nice-girl
hookers Barbara Miller (Ann
Prentiss), Charlie's unambitious live-in
girlfriend, and the insecure younger hooker Susan
Peters (Gwen Welles),
with eyes for the confused Bill. The broads hang out
with the boys and feel like queens in their fun and
games, while still sort of keeping an eye out for
their business interests--that includes a ridiculous
date with a scaredy-cat cross-dresser (Bert
REVIEWED ON 1/8/2013 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ