is a drama by Paul Thomas Anderson
, and his first feature film. It stars Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow
and Samuel L. Jackson
Sydney is a Professional Gambler
who finds John outside a diner one day, broke and alone. Sydney offers to help John find a way to make some money; John at first resists, thinking Sydney is a Dirty Old Man
, but eventually agrees to be helped. Two years later
, Sydney has become a Parental Substitute
for John, and the two are inseparable. John ends up falling in love with, and marrying, Clementine, a cocktail waitress/prostitute. However, they get into a bad situation that Sydney has to help them out of. To make matters, worse, John's friend Jimmy knows about Sydney's past
Tropes in this film:
- Affectionate Nickname: Clementine calls Sydney "captain", because, as she explains, he looks like a captain on a ship. Sydney accepts this, but he gently chides John when he tries to use it on him.
- The Atoner: Sydney. He killed John's father, and is trying to make it up to him by being a Parental Substitute.
- Blackmail: Played with; Sydney thinks at first Jimmy is trying to do this to him because he helped Clementine and John with their Hostage Situation, but Jimmy doesn't care about that and is actually glad Sydney stepped in to help. No, the real reason Jimmy wants to blackmail Sydney is because Jimmy knows Sydney killed John's father, and John doesn't know.
- Book Ends: The movie opens and closes with scenes at the same diner.
- The Cameo: P.T. Anderson's father, Ernie Anderson, who died one year after this movie was released, has a brief cameo.
- Casting Gag: Philip Baker Hall's character Sydney is intended to be an expansion of his mob-affiliated character also named Sidney in the film Midnight Run. Director Anderson was fascinated by the character and his desire to know more about who he was led him to write the role. This also, in a way, could be seen as an inter-film example of Ascended Extra.
- Cool Old Guy: Sydney. He is even referred to as such by Jimmy in his Reason Why You Suck Speech, though in a mocking way.
- The Danza: John C. Reilly plays John.
- Executive Meddling: The studio fired Anderson off the movie and took it away from him in the editing room. They also tried to have their version shown at festivals. Luckily for Anderson, his version was shown there instead, and received such a positive response that the studio grudgingly released his version instead. Also, Paltrow and Jackson both informed the studio they would back Anderson publicly if his version wasn't released. The studio did, however, get the title it insisted on, as opposed to Anderson's title Sydney.
- Fourth Date Marriage: Clementine and John have only known each other a couple of months before they get married.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Played with; Clementine is actually warm and gracious towards Sydney and John. However, she's rather adamant about getting paid on the job, which leads to...
- Hostage Situation: John and Clementine end up taking one of her clients hostage when he refuses to pay, and it's up to Sydney to fix things.
- Parental Substitute: As stated above, Sydney becomes this to John. Also, to a lesser extent, to Clementine.
- Production Posse: Reilly, Hall, and Melora Walters starred in each of Anderson's first three feature films, and Philip Seymour Hoffman has been in every P.T. Anderson film except for There Will Be Blood.
- Reason Why You Suck Speech: Jimmy chews Sydney out, explaining that it was perhaps vanity to expect to get away with killing John's father without any repercussions.
- Retired Badass: Sydney. Jimmy finds this out the hard way.
- Sympathetic Murderer: YMMV, but by the time we find out Sydney murdered John's father, we have also learned he is a sadly estranged father of two, now a loner who primarily whiles away his life's third act making petty gambles, and that he has bent over backwards attempting to fill the space he tore in John's life all those years ago.
- Title Drop: Jimmy refers to seeing Sydney betting on a "hard eight" at the craps table, and Sydney also bets on Philip Seymour Hoffman's character making that roll (it's rolling two fours). Near the end of the movie, Jimmy rolls a hard eight and cleans up.
- Wham Line: "You shot his father in the face."