For those who missed my recent Boogie Nights review, I am a huge Paul Thomas Anderson fan. That being said, I have actually never seen Magnolia until now. A quick look-see at the 1001 Club’s page on the film shows that the film is incredibly love-hate; those who love it really love it, and those who hate it hate it with a passion. Even with my being a big P.T. Anderson fan, I was unsure of which side I would end up on; the people who hate it made some pretty good points, and plus, the film was over three hours long, and my patience rarely can last that long unless the film is really something special. Well, Magnolia is really something, all right, but whether it really is special is something I think I’ll be ruminating on for the next few days, after seeing this film.
What I said about Boogie Nights largely applies to this film as well; it works as a treatise on how to make an excellent film, what you have to study and what exactly to do right. This is much the bigger cousin of Boogie Nights; both share an artistic style to the camera, usually incorporating a lot of movement, and both have stellar ensemble casts. There’s really too many to name here, but just about every named character is a recognizable face. I’m not much of a Tom Cruise fan, though conversely enough I do enjoy a good deal of the movies he is in, but I can recognize the fact that, when given the opportunity (A Few Good Men springs to mind), the man certainly can act. Magnolia is another fine opportunity for him, and he clinches it with his role. Anderson has stated that the film’s structure is much like that of the Beatles song “A Day in the Life”; slowly rising as a crescendo until it finally peaks, ebbs, and starts all over again. This is helped along immensely by the score, which seems to be ever-present (and might cause a few people some annoyance at how it is always, always there, but I found easily tolerable).
I can see how many would hate Magnolia. It’s deliberately overblown and bloated, and intentionally handles more than its fair share of characters and storylines. To some, that may reek of pretentiousness; for me, I found it ambitious, if a little long-winded. Anderson dares to achieve something epic with this, and in my opinion, that’s something that should be applauded, rather than jeered at. Even if you don’t like the end product, you have to admire what Anderson tried to do here; otherwise, if you’d rather hate on him and what he tried to do, you’re showing the filmmakers that you’d rather have every film you see be strictly by-the-formula, cookie-cutter, and full of all the basic, rudimentary crowd-pleasing elements that draw box office and nothing else. But soapboxing aside, I wasn’t too surprised to find I merely liked Magnolia; usually when I encounter a love-it-or-hate-it film, I tend to end up in the middle somewhere, and that was the case here. It was good, and definitely went the distance, but I didn’t find it too earth-shatteringly amazing. At the very least, it’s a cornucopia of a film the likes of which is rare to find, so that alone makes this a must-see.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10