"I hate to compare this to Boogie Nights.. but it's Boogie Nights."
There's something about seeing Gwyneth as a hooker that's just... right.Boggie Nights director Paul Thomas Anderson got a lucky break along the way in his film career. His first big stab at the biz found him giving line readings to John C. Reilly, Gwyn Paltrow, Philip Baker Hall and Sam Jackson.
This is the kind of cast that could usually get a crowd to the unveiling of a peanut picked out of poop. Fortunately for PTA, Hard Eight is a fine script that suits the all-star cast down to the ground.
Set in the shady casino netherworld of professional gamblers, hookers and cliche Sam Jackson types, it's the story of a kid with no life, taken in by a kindly gentleman and shown the way to riches. But hark. Riches are not all they seem to be and falling for a cocktail waitress who'll blow you for a dollar isn't the best way to stay on top of the game.
PTA followed this theme one more time with Boogie Nights and it made him a name, but the comparisons between the two films are a little too close to be healthy. Sure it makes for an interesting story and the cast are all right on their game (even the usually blank Paltrow manages to show some emotion) but there is a tendency to see the odd Seinfeld oddball or Boogie Nights co-star where you should be seeing compelling characters going through hell.
PTA does have a dab hand with the director's hat, that is for sure. He steals a little something here, invents a little something there, paces it all just so you feel like you've been here before. And you're not likely to see Gwyneth any better than this. Drug addicted hookers bring the best out of most actresses and this is no exception.
So is Hard Eight worth tracking down at your Blockbuster? If you loved Boogie Nights, yeah sure. But if that film left you cold, you might want to avoid Hard Eight like blue breakfast cereal.And if you've not yet been introduced to the world of Paul Thomas Anderson, why not start here? It's a funky ride.