Short Cuts (1993) (R)

"Short Cuts" feels like a movie about intersecting lives, much like "Magnolia" was. Yet instead of it all building up to some grand climax (see here "Crash" and "Disconnect") or the abstractly bizarre ("Magnolia" again), the film just slowly slips away to nothing, pondering on the meaning of life and life itself.
What gives us our value, and do we truly have any? Robert Altman's film has been classified as a black comedy and, per usual, I don't find anything funny about it. The situations are too stifling and too weird for me to truly care about them. Altman elicits strong performances from a star-studded cast; but the end result of a movie that tackles the three hour mark is the question why?
Instead of try to synopsize (totally a word) the plot, which would be a fruitless waste of my and your time, perhaps it's just easier to say that there are a lot of characters in a lot of situations. The cast includes Andie MacDowell, Julianne Moore, Matthew Modine, Tim Robbins, Lili Taylor, Robert Downey, Jr., Bruce Davinson, Jack Lemmon, Lily Tomlin, France McDormand, et. al. It's impossible to list all the characters without writing a novel about them. They are as varied as a cellist to a phone-sex operator to a doctor to a pool guy. Each of them touches the other one in their lives—some have great contact with others and some barely notice as the other passes by.
What is more infuriating about "Short Cuts", which feels like it's making some grand point about life, is how pointless the whole thing is. There are characters that seem unnecessary, but aren't...but they are as well, because this is not a plot based movie.
This is a character movie, true and true. What doesn't matter are the plot "twists", the dead bodies that are found, the cheating spouses, the romantic gestures, the doesn't matter. What matters are the characters that have to deal with these situations or these people...and that makes me angry.
Take a policeman for instance. He's cheating on his wife and children with a woman who also has a child; but she's cheating on him with another guy who takes her to exotic places because he's a pilot. Her ex destroys her house while she's out on her trip; and the policeman gets jealous, in doing so, he breaks a window to her house.
The question now becomes: why do I care?
With so many intricacies within the plot and with so many layers upon layers of complexity of the characters, you would think that it would all lead up to something; but it doesn't.
"Short Cuts" manages to lull you into its butt-numbing three hour plus length. It's not a long movie, or at least it doesn't feel long; yet, like all movies in this sub-genre of determined realism, it's not a movie with any sort of satisfaction dealt to the viewer.
It makes us feel cheated of spending our precious time watching something completely pointless, yet here again we hit a wall...this is all the point of the movie. "Shorts Cuts" is designed to present us with the most bizarre of situations, to allow us to be a fly on the wall as we witness families break about and form back together.
It's not a movie I'd like to recommend, but it's a movie that achieves exactly what it intended do, so it succeeded within itself...I suppose.

Score: ★★½

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