Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I am in awe.
The film begins with three unconnected stories about strange, and somewhat unbelievable, coincidences. The events seem impossible but, they did happen. After the film establishes the fact that it will be dealing with coincidence, we move forward. What we move into is a three hour opera of human nature.
The film is made up of several different overlapping stories and runs through a single day in Los Angeles. The characters we meet are an angry self-help guru (Tom Cruise), a dying old man (Jason Robards), his nurse (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), his wife (Julianne Moore), a good hearted cop (John C. Reilly), a broken former child star (William H. Macy) and, several more. The director, Paul Thomas Anderson, allows the film to go on so that we are able to identify with every one of these characters. He gives us just enough to time to truly empathize with the pain that is generating throughout the film.
If I tried to give a plot synopsis at this point two things would happen, first, I would run out of space and second, the plot that I remember may not be the same one that you remember. So rather than give a summary I will just focus on what makes this such a powerful film.
Magnolia has many different interpretations, none of them wrong, just different. I have always thought that one single line summed up the entire movie. There is a scene when John C. Reilly's character is speaking (seemingly to no one) and he makes the statement: "As we move through life, we should try to do good." I think this is P.T. Anderson's overarching theme in the film. Unfortunately for the characters, most of what we see is the aftershock of those who were harmed throughout life by others.
Tom Cruise's portrayal of the loathsome T.J. Mackey is arguably his finest role. He is a man who has been broken since childhood. He has so much hatred for his father that, at the very mention of his name, his cool exterior melts away to a burning rage kept just below the surface. He is most remembered for the deathbed scene. There are very few moments in the history of cinema that can match the raw emotion Cruise displays in that shot.
There are several other scenes that have the same kind of power. William H. Macy's speech towards the end is wonderful. John C. Reilly's quest to do good and Phillip Seymour Hoffman's journey to find a dying man's son are absolutely beautiful. The film is full of pain, betrayal, death, hatred, cruelty and heartache. Some parts are almost too unbearable to watch. And then, just when we think Magnolia is going to fall into complete hopelessness, something happens. It doesn't seem possible but...it did happen.
After this nearly biblical event is over, we realize that despair has given way to something beautiful - hope and maybe even a chance to start over.
Paul Thomas Anderson has made one of the greatest movies I have ever scene. I was grabbed from the first line and held captivated until the credits rolled three hours later. The actors give career high performances in literally every scene and the cinematography is fabulous. This is one of those rare movies that keeps you thinking long after it has ended.
What should you be watching this Friday?