To try and regain the amount of entertainment I had when watching Happiness, I stumbled across the stylistically similar 1993 film Short Cuts, by Robert Altman. At three hours long, and featuring an ensemble cast of 22 actors and actresses – including Andie MacDowell, Bruce Davison and a very young Robert Downey, Jr. – this is one of the quirkiest long films I’ve ever sat through.
Set in Los Angeles, the film gives the viewer a God perspective on the interlocking stories of twenty-two individuals – apparently! I didn’t stop and count them – as they wind through their dark, gritty and sometimes tragic lives. While some elements of this film are humorous, I wouldn’t say that humour is the raison d’être for this film, so it would be difficult to call it a black comedy.
With twenty-two characters, it’s difficult to get a grasp of who’s whom, and how so-and-so knows what’s-her-face, but after about 40 minutes, I had the character list sussed. We rarely see a non-main-character on screen; the extras in each scene are usually the part of the ensemble. Everything is linked!
The action is rather fast-paced. Scenes are generally rather brief, and in a three-hour film, this can get rather intense. There is a lot to keep on top of. There’s none of the neat tying up of plots that you’d expect from a more mainstream film, but I suspect if you saw the film more times, you could gather more meaning from each of the characters’ tales. I wasn’t quite as tickled as I was with Happiness or American Beauty, probably because the characters here aren’t quite as shocking. A worthwhile view, all the same.