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Short Cuts is a 1993 drama film directed by Robert Altman. Filmed from a screenplay by Robert Altman and Frank Barhydt, it is inspired by nine short stories and a poem by Raymond Carver. Substituting a Los Angelesmarker setting for the Pacific Northwest backdrop of Carver's stories, the movie traces the actions of twenty-two principal characters, both in parallel and at occasional loose points of connection. The role of chance and luck is central to the film, and many of the stories concern death and infidelity.

The film was distributed by Fine Line Features, and released in the United Statesmarker on October 1, 1993, to strong critical acclaim. A special DVD edition was released by the Criterion Collection in 2004, containing two discs, the collection of Carver's short stories and an essay booklet on the film.


Dr Ralph Wyman (Matthew Modine) and his wife, Marian (Julianne Moore), meet another couple, Stuart and Claire Kane (Fred Ward and Anne Archer) at a concert and make a spontaneous Sunday dinner date, but both marriages show their cracks over the weekend. While Ralph and Marian Wyman avoid a taboo topic that is undermining their marriage, Stuart Kane goes on a fishing trip with some buddies (Buck Henry and Huey Lewis) and they discover a dead body in the water. Upon his return, Claire Kane is repelled to discover that Stuart and his buddies left the girl in the water until the end of the weekend so they could continue fishing.

Meanwhile, waitress Doreen Piggot (Lily Tomlin), whose lout of a husband Earl (Tom Waits) is a verbally abusive drunk, accidentally hits young Casey Finnigan (Zane Cassidy) with her car. When the little boy walks away from the accident, she assumes he is all right, but never learns the fatal consequences, or the tragic harassment his parents, Howard (Bruce Davison) and Ann Finnigan (Andie MacDowell), must face from the local baker (Lyle Lovett) who is livid because Casey's birthday cake was never picked up. Howard's father, Paul Finnigan (Jack Lemmon) drops by the hospital after a twenty-year absence and relates the story of his own infidelity. Doreen's daughter, Honey (Lili Taylor) is married to Bill Bush (Robert Downey, Jr.), a man aroused by sadism. Their party buddies, Lois (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Jerry Kaiser (Chris Penn), face a toxic brew of phone sex and jealousy, as Lois earns her living as a phone-sex operator, leaving Jerry with a wife whose attitude toward sex is indifferent at best.

Gene Shepard (Tim Robbins) is an unethical cop who cheats on his wife, Sherri (Madeleine Stowe), and seems oblivious to the fact that his wife long ago had discovered his secret—and just does not care. Gene's mistress is realtor Betty Weathers (Frances McDormand), and Sherri's ultimate confidante is her sister, Marian Wyman (Julianne Moore). These stories are woven together with musical bridges performed by Zoe (Lori Singer), a depressed cellist, and her embittered, jazz singer mother, Tess (Annie Ross), who live next to the Finnigans.

Awards and nominations

Robert Altman was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director and shared a nomination for the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay with Frank Barhydt. The cast won a Special Golden Globe Award for their ensemble acting. The movie also won the prestigious Golden Lion and the Volpi Cup for Best Ensemble Cast at the Venice Film Festival.



A book was released to accompany the film, compiling the nine short stories and one poem that inspired it. Altman wrote an introduction to this collection, which featured insights into the making of the film and his own thoughts about Carver's stories.

  1. Neighbours
  2. They're Not Your Husband
  3. Vitamins
  4. Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?
  5. So Much Water So Close To Home
  6. A Small, Good Thing
  7. Jerry and Molly and Sam
  8. Collectors
  9. Tell the Women We're Going
  10. Lemonade (poem)

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