Cert: 18 Runtime: 188 mins Director: Paul Thomas Anderson Starring: Tom Cruise, William H.Macy, Jason Robards, John C.Reilly, Julianne Moore and Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Now that I’ve met you, would you object to never seeing me again?
Paul Thomas Anderson is one of my all time most admired directors. This man knows how to make a movie. Magnolia is my pick of the crop from him. So it is my blast from th past.Magnolia interwines many characters and situations into one day and there is not a single chink in how Anderson writes and directs these chains. Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) is a television producer, dying from cancer and whose only support along with his machine are his nurse Phil (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and much younger wife Linda (Julianne Moore). His final dying wish is to see the son who he left many years before with his ex-wife. His son, Frank T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise) is now a motivator for men and keeps his past safely hidden from public view. Meanwhile, the game show host of ‘What Do Kids Knows?’, Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall) is growing fainter and fainter and his drug-addicted daughter Claudia (Melora Waters) becomes the object of affection of kind policeman Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly). The current game show champ, Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman) has problems with his money obsessed father and after an accident occurs on air, he has had enough. The former game show champ Donnie Smith (William H. Macy), now with none of his winnings attempts to get a local bartender to fall in love with him, even if it means falling towards crime. This description of Magnolia’s events are not even enough to give the film justice as it has to be seen to get the whole story. Merely reading a plot summary won’t do anything.
If Paul Thomas Anderson’s only film was Magnolia, that would still make him the best filmmaker of my generation. While other serious filmmakers try to make films either to homage previous works (Quentin Tarantino), add some more awards to their shelves (Clint Eastwood) or receive a lot of money (Peter Jackson), Anderson instead makes films that have some more spice and meaning than what can be found today at the local 20-screen, stadium seat multiplex. When he makes a scene in which all of the characters sing to Aimee Mann’s “Wise Up”, it’s not just because it’s “cool”, but because he’s talking about how even though people will feel something different than somebody else, there’s still something makes them the same and connectible. In fact, the use of Aimee Mann’s songs, particularly her magnum opus “One” which opens the picture and through which we are introduced to each and every character, is pure genius on Anderson’s part as he allows even the music to express the character’s feeling. The actors work along with the score to provide an very soothing experience. Despite the film’s three hour length, not once do you feel like your bottom is aching like it would while watching a bloated epic. You’re amazed by the imagery presented on screen and the way the story cuts back and forth between everyone.
The actors play a major part in Magnolia as well. Tom Cruise gives quite possibly the work that he will not surpass for many years, as unlike his other performances, we actually truly care about the character, despite him being written as a sexist snob. The relationship between Claudia and Kurring are portrayed perfectly and very realistically by Melora Waters and John C Reilly, who provide real awkwardness to the conversations that Anderson has provided them to speak. The crowning performance of the film is, without a doubt, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s subtle and heartbreaking work as Phil the nurse. We see the character’s feelings through his eyes and mannerisms. He is the only sane person in this world full of bizarre individuals and his struggle could not have been shown better by another actor. Yet, past the music, the cinematography, the editing and the performances, the man who is the most responsible for Magnolia’s brilliance and its immediate entry into the hall of American motion picture classics is Paul Thomas Anderson. Magnolia is his almighty gift of forgiveness to the world and boy, it is quite a fantastic effort to be sure. Magnolia is like a massage and even while writing this review, I still feel it juicing my brain and allowing to think and know that film is the most important and most powerful medium ever created. I thank thee, Mr. Anderson, for this brilliant masterpiece of a film.