Hard Eight Reviews
[Paul Thomas Anderson]
Saw this on 2/6/16
An average film from an always overrated Paul Thomas Anderson that is well shot and features a good performance from Philip Baker Hall. However, the story is so thin and despite some tension buildup, the film is mostly lacking in suspense.
I often find myself comparing Paul Thomas Anderson's first two films with the work of Quentin Tarantino because I just think that they both had a similar approach to movie-making at the time, though that's certainly less the case today. Anyway, for me, Hard Eight is Anderson's Jackie Brown- it's more quiet and understated than Boogie Nights (or Pulp Fiction if we're still talking about Tarantino) but it has the same focus on giving multiple interesting characters a chance to breathe and develop on-screen. Indeed, that's really the point of Hard Eight (and why Anderson named it Sydney) - it's really about seeing Hall's character develop and this happens in the midst of a romance, a casino flick, a drama, and even a mob movie to some extent (though maybe that's just what happens to films when you put Casinos in them).
Anyway, there's plenty to love here and I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Paltrow and Reilly, who seemed to work together surprising well on screen.
It certainly lacks energy at times and not always in the same brooding way that much of Anderson's later, slower ,work does- Hard Eight just lacks a little self-belief at times and is clearly the work of a filmaker who, for whatever reasons, seemed to be somewhat limited in how they told their story. Boogie Nights certainly changed that though.
One of my least-favouritte of Anderson's films but he is my favourite living writer and director so that's not really saying much. A great film, but better was still to come.