28 December 2002 | mockturtle
In the details
As usual, the greatness in Altman comes in the unexpected nuances: the perfect Las Vegas lounge act, with Elliott Gould putting in his repartee like joining a musical theatre number onstage. George Segal "getting down to the oldies" may date the film, along with his sweaters, but this is an enjoyable and surprising movie that exposes the hollowness and joylessness of compulsion without getting all holy about it. The younger working girl's search for feeling with her endless succession of tricks is a more easily noticeable parallel to what emerges as the film's core: George Segal's character finding his capacity for change. The shenanigan with Gould, Segal and the cross dresser strays dangerously close to outtakes from MASH. The film's greatest moment, aside from the surprisingly shattering denouement coming two minutes later, is when Segal has run from $2000 to $82,000. He's rolling everything right at the craps table when this little pea brained moron comes up and puts $1 on the seven. Elliott Gould offers to throw a hundred dollar chip at her to make her go away (if you don't know, the seven ends the streak and betting on it in the middle of a streak should be punishable by water torture). Sure enough, Segal rolls a seven and the streak ends. Everyone looks at the little moron and she says, "I don't care, it's my birthday and I won!" and picks up her $2. That is classic. Looking at Segal's performance you can see shades of what Ben Gazzarra would do decades later in Todd Solondz's "Happiness" as another man who doesn't feel anything.