The Magic Hour
Directed by Robert Benton
Starring Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon, Gene Hackman
Released March 6th, 1998
Harry Ross (Paul Newman) is a former cop, former private investigator, and former drunk. He’s living with his friends Jack (Gene Hackman) and Catherine (Susan Sarandon), a married couple that he worked for in the past. Harry is barely tolerated by Jack’s teenage daughter Mel (Reese Witherspoon), who at one point says, “you think you’re a part of this family, but you’re not.” Jack knows Harry has eyes for Catherine, but being married to a beautiful woman, you get the sense he’s used to that sort of thing. Their dynamic is more tense than you’d think, as if the four of them know this set up can’t sustain itself forever.
Jack asks Harry to run an errand for him, a simple delivery of an envelope to an address. We, the audience, suspect this task will prove to be anything but simple, and Harry suspects this as well. But he accepts the envelope and becomes a delivery man. Gun shots, dead bodies, and double-crosses ensue. The mystery is pretty straightforward, which may be boring for viewers expecting something more intricate, but it’s a treat to hear Newman’s gravelly voice lead us through the film’s deceptions as his character adds narration to the film in true gumshoe tradition.
The film’s leisurely pace may be too slow for some viewers, but it befits a film about being in the twilight of one’s life. Newman, Sarandon, and Hackman are all playing older and feebler than they were in real life at the time, with plenty of focus on the frustrations of getting older. And cigarette smoking. Everyone is smoking. Welcome to 1998.
The cast is absolutely stacked with an insane amount of talent. In addition to Newman, Sarandon, Hackman, and Witherspoon, Twilight also boasts strong performances from James Garner, Margo Martindale, Live Schreiber, M. Emmet Walsh, Giancarlo Esposito, and Stockard Channing. Channing is so charming as a police detective that I found myself wishing her character would have turned up in other movies with different casts.
The Kino Lorber Blu-ray transfer reveals bright colors and a sound mix that emphasizes every gun shot. The special features include television spots for the film, and theatrical trailers for a variety of films, including another from Twilight director Robert Benton starring Paul Newman, Nobody’s Fool. The audio commentary from film critics Alain Silver and James Ursini is not terribly exciting or insightful. The critics don’t sound particularly jazzed as they go through the film pointing out the obvious, including that the script is beneath the collective talent of the cast.