Magnolia is a three hour long movie set over a period of twenty-four hours. It tells the interconnected stories of Frank T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise), a man who gives talks about how to get any woman you want, Jimmy Gator (Phillip Baker Hall), a dying quiz show host, Claudia Wilson Gator (Melora Walters), a drug addict, Stanley (Jeremy Blackman), a kid genius, Donnie Smith (William H. Macy), a man in need of money, Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly), a police officer, and lastly, Linda (Julianne Moore) and her dying husband, Earl (Jason Robards).
Magnolia is a one of a kind movie experience. I have never experienced a film like this before in my life and I doubt that I ever will again. It's a unique and wondrous movie that's really, truly unlike any other movie out there. It weaves several different individual stories flawlessly together, managing to give each of them a certain layer of depth, humour and emotion, and sometimes, all three of those at once. While the stories work well on their own, when cut together, they manage to work even better.
It's almost a standard for Paul Thomas Anderson films to be well acted. In fact, it is a standard. Anderson always manages to amaze, getting the best out of his actors. With Magnolia, these actors may just give their best performances to date. Yep, all of them. Magnolia is really just that kind of movie, and saying that makes me happy. But taking the spotlight is Julianne Moore, who, although needed much more screen time than she got, is utterly fantastic and so unlike her usual self. She's not crazy, but she's not in control either, and it's a performance that just shoots off of the screen.
Magnolia is a film that's all over the place, yet it never manages to become a mess. There's so many different stories being told, and although that resulted in a rather lengthy runtime, it's a film that's ultimately worthwhile. Part character case-study, part tale of coincidence, Magnolia just keeps on giving for it's entire runtime. It's a fascinating movie with equally fascinating themes, and of course, it ends on the most fascinating note possible.
This ending, and I won't spoil it, is arguably the greatest thing about the film. It's ambitious, unexpected and utterly amazing. While at first it comes across as ridiculous, as it keeps on going, it keeps on giving, and the more thought given to it, the better it gets. It's seemingly unrealistic, yet it's something that's actually happened before, and on more than one occasion too. It's a perfect ending to an almost extraordinary film.
While I would argue that Magnolia is one of Paul Thomas Anderson's weaker films, rather than his best film as many have called it, it is still quite an extraordinary film. If this is to be one of his weakest films, or at least in my opinion, then that really says something about Anderson as a filmmaker. Maybe it will improve over multiple viewings, just like The Master did. Who knows? I guess I'll have to come back, watch it again and let you all know, but for now, it is what it is and what it is is very good.
To sum up, Magnolia may be a little too long and needed a bit more of Julianne Moore, but it's a one of a kind movie experience with some career defining performances and an ending that's utterly perfect.