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Movie Info

Carefree single guy Charlie Waters (Elliott Gould) rooms with two lovely prostitutes, Barbara Miller (Ann Prentiss) and Susan Peters (Gwen Welles), and lives to gamble. Along with his glum betting buddy, Bill Denny (George Segal), Charlie sets out on a gambling streak in search of the ever-elusive big payday. While Charlie and Bill have some lucky moments, they also have to contend with serious setbacks that threaten to derail their hedonistic betting binge.

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Critic Reviews for California Split

All Critics (17) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (15) | Rotten (2)

Audience Reviews for California Split

  • Mar 24, 2021
    Few capture the zeitgeist of the times better than Altman, whose buddy movie could've been about any addictive behavior but just so happens to be about gambling. Elliot Gould and George Segal are great as two guys whose friendship can only be expressed through their common addiction - both want to be cool as if they are in control. Neither are in control. I can't say when I've seen the 70s better portrayed. And Altman's use of natural conversational rhythms is absolutely unparalleled.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Jun 05, 2014
    <i>This review contains spoilers.</i> Surpassing the immediate comparison called <i>The Cincinnati Kid</i> (1965) in a number of ways, <i>California Split</i> can be still considered today as the most important character-analysis rendition of the nightwalker, daysleeper, risk-seeker compulsive gambler. One of Altman's most notorious film trademarks is his ability to bring realistic scenarios to life. Despite the big variety of gambling locations, social places such as pubs, and domestic settings present in the film, the minimalistic camera along with a grand screenplay and a powerful duo of leading performances from the Segal/Gould duo absorb your senses fully to the portrayed environment, where the intensity of gambling, the tension of being mugged (twice in a row) and the humor of the jokes and the naturalistic situations become pretty much tangible to the viewer. Reportedly, in these filming locations, professional gamblers and ex-drug addicts were employed instead of extras. Altman's interest in constructing realistic settings can be even highlighted with a little piece of trivia: "A number of the extras and background artists were members of Synanon which is organization for former drug addicts." <i>IMDB Trivia Section</i> With these, the extremely low probability of a winning streak like the one portrayed here (I did a mathematical approximation, and the number of zeros after the decimal point before any different number appears was very amusing) is almost completey forgiven, despite how ludicrous it is, for a simple reason: Altman's hidden ace in the hole. The two leading roles were drastically different regarding their intentions for gambling. One loved to win. One was used to lose. One was a risk-seeker, which from an Economics point of view means that he gets more satisfaction from both expected return and risk. The other wasn't. He sought the risk, but maybe subconsciously expected to lose as a form of self-punishment, as in an attempt to bring himself down to the lowest possible point of his life, which is purposely left vague. Paradoxically, he becomes disappointed after having a "winning streak", which maybe caused an epiphany in him, after realizing not only the extent of his dangerous actions and the life he is having, but also realizing the existence of an addiction. And this last point is the one that elevates the film's status to a higher significant level of quality. In case this wasn't enough, ahilariously conceived scene at an escalator with oranges involved, some curious homosexual undertones between the gambling duo, and an epically funny scene involving the discussion of the names of the Seven Dwarves add extra value to this stylish, jazzy product. 77/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer
  • Oct 27, 2011
    Altman's hilarious look at compulsive gambling is perhaps his most underrated film.
    Graham J Super Reviewer
  • Apr 13, 2010
    I think this is one of Robert Altman's best's and it's very funny too. It's one of those all good things must come to an end pictures with two great stars. I love the way how Altman introduces me to the game of poker and gambling and the characters who overlap and talk whenever they please.
    Brian R Super Reviewer

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