Sunday, July 10, 2011

Classic Review: The Hustler (1961)

Director: Robert Rossen
Starring: Paul Newman, Piper Laurie

"I'll be alive when I get out, Charlie."
-Fast Eddie

One of Paul Newman’s classic roles, The Hustler is renowned widely and for good reason. This film has a slow build up, and the story is simple and plain, but the great use of subtlety and care in the storytelling creates a film you simply cannot stop watching. Newman plays a young hustler who becomes obsessed with beating this town's resident pool playing god, and also shacks up with a woman who he grows to have quite a fruitful relationship with. The acting is great, and every character seems to be swallowed whole by his or her role, completely consumed by the dark passion of the story they're in. Newman's character is a man who doesn't have a whole lot of direction in his life. He lives for the moment and acts on a lot of impulses, seemingly changing his mind with the warning of a sharp 90 degree angle turn. His speech about playing pool and winning and losing at around the halfway mark to his girlfriend pretty much sums up his character - "Anything can be great if you know what you're doing is right." But he keeps falling back on his obsessive desire to play for stakes, and keeps on getting himself into trouble, lowering his dignity and eventually causing a great tragedy by the end, but through this he does grow much stronger as a person, and learns from his mistakes. This is a movie about human weakness, strength and obsession. It is a very human, realistic, passionately enflamed tale with magnetic characters, an uncoiling and understated drama and a lot of bittersweet sorrow too. Watch this, experience it and let it soak in, and you will learn something about humanity and maybe about your own personal self too.