Multiple characters' stories unfold into the magnificent ensemble piece "Magnolia" by the creator of "Boogie Nights."
By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
Anyone unconvinced of Paul Thomas Anderson's talent following the success of "Boogie
Nights" (the film which put Mark Wahlberg's "talent" on the map) need look no
further than his latest film, "Magnolia".
"Magnolia" stars Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly, Melora Walters,
Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Philip Baker Hall, all of whom appeared in "Boogie Nights".
Utilizing a stock company of repertory regulars is an approach employed by the likes of
Robert Altman and Alan Rudolph, and it works well for Anderson too; every single member of
his ensemble delights in profound and significant ways. "Magnolia" also stars Jason
Robards and Tom Cruise, and they complement Anderson's veterans extremely nicely.
|Written and directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson.|
Cast: Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly, Melora Walters, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Philip Baker Hall, Jason Robards.
Cinematography: Robert Elswit.
Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
In a story of intersecting lives and emotions, Robards is bedridden and dying of
cancer, Moore is his emotional wreck of a trophy wife who's finally learned to love him, and Hoffman is his sensitive and beleaguered nurse. Cruise, in a dynamic performance,
plays a misogynistic motivational speaker with turbulent ties to the dying man.
In parallel story threads, Reilly is a San Fernando Valley cop who falls
for the coke-addicted daughter (Walters) of a TV game show host (Hall), and Macy appears
as a former game-show prodigy with love in his heart for a tinsel-toothed barkeep.
As you can probably tell from these brief character descriptions, "Magnolia" is
structured more as a series of vignettes than a traditional central narrative, yet many of
these disparate storylines come together very untraditionally in the film's breathtaking
final act. The film is a little over three hours long but you'd never know it; the minutes
simply fly by.|
Anderson, some say an upstart of a filmmaker at 29, wrote as well as directed "Magnolia,"
yet the film plays out with the sophistication and maturity of someone beyond his years.
Since "Magnolia" was supposedly inspired by a lyric from an Aimee Mann song, it makes
perfect sense that Anderson would employ the talents of the former 'Til Tuesday lead
singer, whose melancholy refrains are featured prominently on the film's soundtrack.
That soundtrack also features impressive music by Jon Brion (Anderson's "Hard Eight").
His insistent score is especially effective in its ability to heighten passions, pulling
the characters together with its urgent layering across scenes.
In addition to drawing superlative performances from his cast, Anderson takes two major
risks in the film, sequences so against the grain you'd expect some conventional bigwig to
have exorcised them from the final cut. The fact that they meld perfectly with the
escalating human drama only further substantiates Anderson's skill as a writer and
director of unique and remarkable vision.
Unfortunately, "Magnolia" was released in Philadelphia one week too late to be
included on my list of outstanding films of 1999, but even this
early in the new year I can guarantee it will make it onto my best films of 2000 list.
As a candidate for the best film of the year, it's gonna be a tough act to beat.
|JANUARY 12, 2000|
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