Magnolia: Special Edition
Ever since Robert Altman released Nashville in 1975 there has been a trend towards movies with large central casts and multiple story lines. Rarely is this format executed properly. The characters are not properly developed, the story lines get muddled and the film fails to hold together. Fortunately, the latest opus by Boogie Nights director/writer Paul Thomas Anderson, Magnolia, does not fall into this trap. It may take you a couple of viewing to really get the underlying theme in this film. It is simply coincidences do occur and they can have a profound affect upon the lives of people. Every one in the film is connected in some fashion. There is the contrast between Donnie Smith (William H. Macy) a former quiz kid whiz and current holder of that title Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman). For the former his childhood was the peak of his existence. He is now unemployed, experiencing the unrequited love of a bartender Bart and at lifes lowest point. I used to be smart, now Im stupid is repeated almost like a mantra. Stanley on the other hand is experiencing great stress and misery due to his current fame as the smartest kid around. Robbed of his childhood he is forced to compete by an obsessive, overbearing father. Then there are two men both facing immanent deaths due to cancer. There is Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall) the host of the long running quiz kid show and Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) the producer of the show. While Jimmy is trying his best to hide his disease Earl is at the very end in his deathbed. These many stories do not collide, the usual mode of operation in this type of film. Rather they grow together, they entwine like kudzu vines on an old southern mansion. As the movie progresses that scene becomes a piece of the puzzle, a colorful thread in a wonderful tapestry.
The talent represented by the actors in this film is beyond excellent. It is ideal. Of course there are the main stays of Andersons films. William H. Macy (and his wife Felicity Huffman), Philip Baker Hall, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Luis Guzman. These actors a used in every one of Andersons projects for a reason, they understand each other so well. It is obvious that these talented people have chemistry with each other and the director. Their performances flow with a natural quality not often seen in films today. The depths of emotion they achieve can only be done in an atmosphere that such familiarity fosters. There are many stand out performances. At the top of the list is the beautiful Julianne Moore as Linda Partridge, the trophy wife of Earl. Moore exhibits such emotion that you are held in awe of her performance. There is one caveat is almost every line of dialogue that she has contains one foul expletive or another. Tom Cruise provides the one performance in his career guarantied to offend every woman that sees this film. He plays Frank T.J. Mackey, an infomercial, new age guru of male empowerment. His course is titled Seduce and Destroy a method for any man to bed any woman he wants. What is amazing in this performance is how this extremely self confident man begins to unravel when he is forced to face the truth of his life. Anderson regular Melora Walters gives another break out performance. Her role of the drug-addicted daughter of Jimmy is outstanding. She takes what could have easily become filler or played as a TV movie of the week typical junkie and takes the character into one that the audience can actually care about.
Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson has out done himself this time. Under pressure after his mega hit Boogie Nights, Anderson has not only risen to the challenge of returning to the standard shown in Boogie Nights, he goes far beyond it in scope, vision and value. He filmed each characters contribution in order for that character and then blended the performances together in a seamless manner so as to tell one grand story rather than eight separate ones. In one touching scene each of the cast members is singing alone to the main theme, Aimee Manns Save Me. Wonderful, simply wonderful. Andersons use of music in this film shows just how a score should be incorporated into a movie. It may seem at times to overwhelm the dialogue but actually it holds the film together, propels it constantly forward.
The two disc set is calibration quality The sound is awesome in its clarity, the video is without any hint of artifact. The extras disc is imaginative and informative. Check out the Seduce and Destroy infomercial, the Aimee Mann music video and the hour plus long making of featurette. This featurette shows the project form conception to the premiere in great detail. Just of a film like this develops and how important each member of the cast and crew are to the success of the finished product. This is a must have film for everyone.