Combustible Celluloid Review - California Split (1974), Joseph Walsh, Robert Altman, George Segal, Elliott Gould, Ann Prentiss, Gwen Welles, Edward Walsh, Joseph Walsh, Bert Remsen, Jeff Goldblum, Barbara Ruick
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With: George Segal, Elliott Gould, Ann Prentiss, Gwen Welles, Edward Walsh, Joseph Walsh, Bert Remsen, Jeff Goldblum, Barbara Ruick
Written by: Joseph Walsh
Directed by: Robert Altman
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 108
Date: 08/07/1974
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California Split (1974)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Robert Altman's gambling movie is wandering and virtually plotless, but it's also a committed portrait to its two characters, both fascinating and a little sad. Charlie Waters (Elliott Gould) is a full-time gambler, hyper and antsy. He's forever in debt and risking everything to gamble on more money to pay off his debts. One night he meets Bill Denny (George Segal), a more sensible gambler, and they become fast friends, especially after they're beaten up by a sore loser. Bill has a half-hearted job writing for a magazine, but he happily joins Charlie at the race track and other gambling joints. At the climax, they take a road trip to Reno, where Bill plays and finds himself on an amazing winning streak. California Split doesn't offer any real solutions for this human condition, or the question of what it really means to be a winner or a loser, but the humans in the movie are so alive that it's worth spending time with them. Altman employed a complex (for the time) eight-track sound mix for this film, making the casino scenes feel both more realistic and more tense and cacophonous.

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