Short Cuts

Critics Consensus

Robert Altman's ensemble drama deftly integrates its disparate characters and episodes into a funny, poignant, emotionally satisfying whole.



Total Count: 58


Audience Score

User Ratings: 22,697
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Movie Info

Robert Altman stunningly interweaves 22 characters and nine Raymond Carver short stories -- relocating the settings from Carver's Northwest to Los Angeles during a spraying of malathion brought on by a Medfly epidemic. Altman intercuts tales of disconnection and emotional emptiness. The stories concern variations upon the theme of Los Angeles angst --a happily married couple, Ann (Andie MacDowell) and Howard Finnigan (Bruce Davison) have to deal with the deep emotions felt when their child is struck by a car before his birthday and lapses into a coma, while the baker (Lyle Lovett) of their child's neglected birthday cake sinks into a rage and torments them in their grief. Three men (Fred Ward, Buck Henry and Huey Lewis) leave on a much anticipated fishing trip, only to discover the drowned body of a nude woman floating in the river and decide to finish their fishing trip and ignore the corpse. A Los Angeles cop (Tim Robbins) uses his badge as an excuse to cheat on his wife (Madeleine Stowe). A pool cleaner (Chris Penn) resents his wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh) for her part-time job as a phone sex performer. A waitress (Lily Tomlin) is devoted to her limousine driver husband (Tom Waits), who is loving and concerned as long as he is sober. An irate husband (Peter Gallagher) decides to divide up his estranged wife's property in a unique way. A lonely woman (Lori Singer) who's a successful cellist wants to form a connection with her alcoholic mother (Annie Ross), a local jazz singer. A couple (Fred Ward and Anne Archer) is invited to dinner for the first time with two embittered spouses (Matthew Modine and Julianne Moore). Altman weaves the characters into an interconnected tapestry that exposes the shallow lives of this self-centered group of Californians.


Tim Robbins
as Gene Shepard
Andie MacDowell
as Ann Finnigan
Bruce Davison
as Howard Finnigan
Julianne Moore
as Marian Wyman
Matthew Modine
as Dr. Ralph Wyman
Anne Archer
as Claire Kane
Fred Ward
as Stuart Kane
Chris Penn
as Jerry Kaiser
Tom Waits
as Earl Piggot
Lily Tomlin
as Doreen Piggot
Madeleine Stowe
as Sherri Shepard
Peter Gallagher
as Stormy Weathers
Buck Henry
as Gordon Johnson
Jack Lemmon
as Paul Finnegan
Zane Cassidy
as Casey Finnigan
Huey Lewis
as Vern Miller
Lori Singer
as Zoe Trainer
Lili Taylor
as Honey Bush
Lyle Lovett
as Andy Bitkower
Frances McDormand
as Betty Weathers
Annie Ross
as Tess Trainer
Danny Darst
as Aubrey Bell
Darnell Williams
as Joe Robbins
Josette Macario
as Josette Kaiser
Michael Beach
as Jim Stone
Cassie Friel
as Sandy Shepard
Dustin Friel
as Will Shepard
Andi Chapman
as Harriet Stone
Austin Friel
as Austin Shepard
Jarrett Lennon
as Chad Weathers
Charles Rocket
as Wally Littleton
Jane Alden
as Mrs. Schwarzmeier
Dirk Blocker
as Diner Customer
Jay Della Valle
as Bartender
Alex Trebek
as Himself
Jerry Dunphy
as Himself
Terry Adams
as The Low Note Quintet #1
Greg Cohen
as The Low Note Quintet #3
Robert DoQui
as Knute Willis
View All

News & Interviews for Short Cuts

Critic Reviews for Short Cuts

All Critics (58) | Top Critics (11) | Fresh (55) | Rotten (3)

  • It's a funny/scary vision, with a manic edge -- which is why, when you come down from the high of the filmmaking, you may be left with the taste of ashes in your mouth. Altman's artistry can make you happy even when his art offers cold comfort.

    Apr 7, 2016 | Full Review…

    David Ansen

    Top Critic
  • As the grand ringmaster, it's here that Altman passes the baton to his actors , whose behavioral insights are critical to the film's success.

    Feb 27, 2008

    Todd McCarthy

    Top Critic
  • Inevitably it's a mixed bag, though the film's assurance in keeping it all coherent is at times exhilarating.

    Feb 27, 2008 | Full Review…
  • From the exhilarating opening, you know Altman's epic 'adaptation' of eight stories and a poem by Raymond Carver is going to be special.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • The lives are often desperate and the characters inarticulate, but the group portrait is as grandly, sometimes as hilariously, realized as anything the director has ever done.

    May 20, 2003 | Rating: 5/5
  • Triumphantly fierce, funny, moving and innovative.

    May 12, 2001 | Rating: 5/5

Audience Reviews for Short Cuts

  • Oct 08, 2015
    Short Cuts is a film of many quirks. It is a big film that feels like a little one. It is a dark film that feels light. If you want an indication as to whether you will enjoy the film, check out the cast. I rate this film up mainly because I love watching these actors act. I don't believe the length is a problem because it is the type of film that is very easy to stop and then pick right back up again without losing a beat.
    Robert B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 05, 2012
    This "companion" piece to the Player inconsistent. Sometimes it has the charm of The Player but ultimately the work is not cohesive enough.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 01, 2012
    Altman and his co-writer do a tremendous job at mixing R. Carver's shorts stories and making them relevant together. They should have won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. The final product is a bunch of engaging intertwining stories set in L.A. The acting is solid and the tone is perfect. Just like Carver's short stories, there is no real ending, which is a clever adaptation decision in my opinion. A threat for both fans of Altman AND Carver.
    Hugo S Super Reviewer
  • Feb 01, 2012
    The best american film of the 90's.
    Lucas M Super Reviewer

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