Friday, January 26, 2018

Movie Review: Magnolia

Paul Thomas Anderson's greatest film and one my favorite films ever, this sprawling tale of multiple lives over a single day is exciting and charming. The story begins with three tales of coincidences as the narrator insists that these things can't just randomly happen. The film then begins to tell the story of various people's live and how they interact with each other. Officer Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly) is a police officer who is looking to connect with someone. He runs into a woman who has a dead body in her closet. A young boy tells him that he can explain what is happening through a rap but Officer Kurring cuts him off due to harsh language. Frank T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise) is a relationship advice guru who promises men that they can turn their female friends into sexual partners. He is interview by Gwenovier (April Grace) who probes into his hidden past.

 Phil Pharma (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a hospice caretaker tending to Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) while his wife Linda (Julianne Moore) handles their affairs. Earl is delirious but he wants to reengage with his estranged son Jack who may possibly be Frank T.J. Mackey. Phil begins the process of trying to contact Frank. Linda is distressed because of her guilt of having an affair and confronts her therapist, lawyer, and Earl's and her doctors. Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman) is a boy genius working on a record-breaking run on a game show hosted by Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall). Stanley's father Rick (Michael Bowen) is demanding of his son as he tries out for auditions. Jimmy has his own problems as his daughter Claudia (Melora Walters) will no longer speak to him and has developed a coke addiction.

A noise complaint call brings Office Kurring to Claudia's apartment and he almost immediately falls for her. They awkwardly chat over stale coffee while Claudia hides her cocaine. Stanley continues his success of answering questions but falters when he needs to go to the bathroom. His father is frustrated and does not allow him to use the bathroom. A former quiz show winner Quiz Kid Donnie Smith (William H. Macy) has money troubles these decades later and wants to get oral surgery to impress a bartender. All of these developments play out to a great soundtrack led by Aimee Mann. Officer Kurring finally builds up the courage to ask Claudia on a date but afterwards he loses his gun and becomes an embarassment. Stanley wets his pants and refuses to stand up for a final contest. He runs off to hide at the library. Frank ends the interview with Gwenovier and receives a phone call. Phil finally got through to Frank but he refuses to speak with his father at first. 

After being rejected by the bartender and ridiculed by another patron, Donnie plans a heist of his boss's safe. Linda is embarrassed at the pharmacy for requiring so many drugs and has a breakdown. She returns to deliver the drugs to Earl but then heads off to try to be written out of the will. When she fails, she takes many of the drugs and overdoses. The young boy who warned Officer Kurring finds her and calls the police. Around this time in the events everyone pauses to sing a song in an odd, yet moving, musical sequence. Frank agrees to see Earl and confronts his father who is too far gone. Donnie enters his boss's place and steals their money but guilt makes him turn around. Kurring and Claudia go on a date, they admit their shortcomings but still want to see each other. Jimmy Gator's wife Rose (Melinda Dillon) confronts the game show host about his abuse of Claudia leaving him as he is dying of cancer and planning to cut short his suffering with a gun. Kurring sees Donnie climbing into the building to return to the money. As all the stories converge, frogs rain down on the city.

Magnolia is a wonderful film full of twists and turns and encounters of characters that make of this beautiful movie. The film is not easily explained and takes several watches to see how the stories are all related and subtley connected. I had never seen a movie like this so it was stunning upon the first watch and enjoyable every other time I've sat down to watch it. Paul Thomas Anderson has even mentioned that he may never make a better film. This is also Tom Cruise's best performance of a long acting career though he fell short of winning the award. This would be the last time so far that Anderson would film with the large ensemble cast. This is the peak of PTA's career but there was still plenty of great films to come. 

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