Counterpointing the noteworthy verisimilitude of the dialogue and stark realism of the settings is the pervasive illusion theme, which centers on the nostalgia enveloping Jean Shaw. Her words and actions are so intertwined with film lines she spoke and roles she played years ago that make-believe and reality blur. Leonard suggests that people need their illusions, not only aging film stars but ordinary people too. People also need one another. The villains Nobles and Rey usually operate as a team; Shaw and Zola years ago forged their unusual, yet useful, symbiotic relationship; and although LaBrava is a loner, he frequently forms close, albeit temporary, relationships.