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Director's cut of Paul Thomas Anderson's acclaimed ensemble drama starring, among many others, Julianne Moore, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Tom Cruise. The lives of various inhabitants of Los Angeles and San Fernando valley intersect when dying television producer Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) seeks a reconciliation with his womanising son, Frank T.J. Mackey (Cruise). Meanwhile, game show host Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall) - also dying of cancer - tries to reconcile with his coke addict daughter Claudia, who embarks on a relationship with cop Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly). Jimmy's last television appearance goes awry when child genius contestant Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman) - who is bullied by his father, Rick (Michael Bowen) - refuses to participate, while Donnie Smith (William H. Smith), a former contestant on the show in the 1960s, declares his love to barman Brad (Craig Kvinsland).
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The first two hours are uniformly perfect: great cinema on every account. The third one is more uneven and starts with a facepalm-inducing sequence that I find hard to believe made the final cut. Happily, the film gathers pace shortly afterwards, even if probably doesn't reach the same heights of virtuosity again.
Still, it's great. In fact, I plan to watch it again soon. It has been a long time since a movie earns my respect to this extent. Even Tom Cruise is brilliant here. Standing ovation for him and for the director.
On the other hand, I can see a lot of folks not liking Magnolia. Overblown and depressing might be the thought. There is certainly a lot of shouting and angst going on. It’s a melodrama. The film explores human vulnerability and fallibility, yet there’s a lot of hope too. Most of the film’s characters want to love and be loved but they screw up in how they go about it. The other aspect people may find difficult is how the director is audacious, sometimes verging on reckless, with cinematic convention. Only a couple of times, but enough to make you think “What the…?” I love how PTA takes risks, and it’s done with such flair and good humour, but others will think those things don’t work.
PTA is on record as saying, "Magnolia is, for better or worse, the best movie I'll ever make." He’s made some very fine movies, none of them quite like Magnolia for freewheeling joyousness in being the other participant in the movie, the viewer. The critic Roger Ebert called it “a kind of operatic ecstasy”. I can’t put it better than that. Switch off everything else for three hours, watch it, and make your own mind up.
Intensely boring with some good music which is far too loud!!
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