Magnolia (1999)

Magnolia (1999) — I really don’t know what all to say about Magnolia without going through every member of the cast and crew and just gushing with praise. It’s one of those movies there’s a lot of disagreement on and I happen to come down fervently on the “pro” side. This film is just over three hours long but it’s well-paced enough that it never drags. All the roles are well-written and all the actors shine. Tom Cruise steps decidedly out of his comfort zone as an actor, which is when he tends to do his best work. Jason Robards left us with one hell of a swan song in his last big-screen performance. Michael Bowen is sleaze incarnate as a stage parent (eerily prescient of Michael Lohan… their names even rhyme). Actually, I’m getting into that listing-all-the-actors-and-how-great-they-are thing that I said I was going to avoid. Magnolia is about broken people trying to get fixed. For some of them, it ain’t in the cards but others have a shot. The movie takes a couple turns outside of the plausible as highlighted in early narration by Ricky Jay and the film’s notorious barely-foreshadowed third-act twist (which interestingly enough can happen under the right circumstances, though not in the San Fernando Valley). Magnolia is Paul Thomas Anderson masterfully crafting an ensemble film that moves and entertains in the way that he does best.

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