An epic mosaic of several interrelated characters in search of happiness, forgiveness, and meaning in the San Fernando Valley.
No one tells the universal story of emotional conflict like young director Paul Thomas Anderson does. Considering too that he was only 28 years old when he made this 3+ hour epic ensemble film and already had two other feature films under his belt.
The film basically starts with a non-fiction told short film about coincidences in human nature. It's a nice little short as it uses reenactment footage to show us three stories about coincidences to set up the coincidences that the film Magnolia will give us.
(it shows that director P.T. Anderson is also a great short filmmaker as his next film Punch Drunk Love is basically a 25 minute one note short film with 60 extra minutes of inner emotional angst footage.)
Magnolia is a film filled with some of the best performances in one film in the last 20 years of cinema. Their are 8 roles that the academy easily could of given Oscars too. For anyone who is interested in understanding the art of acting, this is the film for them to see. It's all about the subtext and these actors are the masters of it. They all seem to show over a dozen levels of emotion in just one closeup, which is what separates the professionals from the amateurs.
And it probably is the greatest performance legendary actor Tom Cruise has and will ever give. Playing Frank T.J Mackey, a motivational speaker ala a religious evangelist for men on the art of picking up woman, Cruise balances the flashiness and confidence of this character with his obvious inner fear and insecurity.
The thematic of this film is about CHOICE. People making the wrong choices due to past conflicts that haunt them and/or current fears they have, and learning the art of making the right choice in the present moment so you can become a better person in the future and have a happier live.
Some of the characters in this film are successful on the surface as glory and finances tell us this, but really are failures in life because they made the wrong choices that have effected their apparent loved ones lives and effecting their current world. These characters are at the end of the line in life as their regrets are haunting them and they want to express their regrets before its too late.
One of the better storylines in this film is the relationship between Police officer Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly) and drug addict Claudia Gator (Melora Walters - who might be the most underrated actors working today). These are two people with different lives and ideals but who carry the same emotion of extreme loneliness. They are just looking for any form of connection with another person. On of the best scenes in this film is when they are on their first date after both having a really terrible day. They are both at the end of their rope with nothing to lose, so they just state what's exactly on their mind.
That scene defines this film as every character is at the end of their rope and they all must do something about it.
Crashing in life is something I can relate to. When it happens, you feel such extreme pain and such extreme satisfaction all at the same time. What else can go wrong? So you either can go back out there and live life again or decide you don't want to live anymore.
Magnolia is a heck of movie and I hope it's a movie that will be remembered for years to come. I would consider it a masterpiece if only director Paul Thomas Anderson (who had final cut - a rarity for such a young director) decided to cut about 10 minutes off the running time. Some of the emotional beats are repeated and slow the pace of the film a bit. Anderson did concede this point 8 years after the film saying that yes maybe he should of listened to the studio producers and cut off some of the running time for the betterment of the film. This running time conflict with Anderson and the studio caused a ripple effect with other directors that still lasts today. The production company was so upset with Anderson's behavior that no other director has gotten final cut of their films since (minus some of the heavy duty directors: Spielberg, Scorsese and Eastwood to name a few).
But watch Magnolia as you won't be disappointed. And if you haven't seen it in awhile like I hadn't, please revisit it as every viewing leaves you feeling a whole new emotion. And that is a sign of a great movie. And Magnolia is definitely a great movie!