Sunday, August 1, 2010

Magnolia

We move away from Paul Thomas Anderson’s log and unpleasant Boogie Nights to his follow up, Magnolia--a long, but far more pleasant film. Or at least I think so. I have introduced the film to friends over the last decade. Most of them thought Magnolia was an overly complicated mess with an out of left field ending that serves as an admission Anderson had no clue where he was going when he started. Needless to say, I disagree.

I need less linear thinking friends, too. Help me.

The film begins with three short stories which all revolve around extraordinary incidents of coincidences from uran legend. They set up expectations that the relationships involving the large cast of characters will wid up overlapping in extraordinary ways.

We catch these relationships all on one rainy day in the San Fernando Valley. Some of these relationships are happy, others are stressed or sad. For example, there isa religious cop who has fallen in love with a woman so blindly, he cannot see she is strung out on drugs. A young boy is under tremendous pressure to win on a game show by his father. The host of the game show is an old man dying of cancer while his young trophy spends her day trying to score morphine.

That is just a sample of all that is going on, including an Oscar nominated performance by Tom Cruise as a smarmy self-help guru who teaches how to seduce women. His scenes unintentionally echo some of the actor’s later earnest shilling for Scientology.

Following all the stories can get overwhelming. Just as you expect something to happen which will tie them all together as hinted in the beginning, frogs begin raining from the sky. The event affects every story in a different way, though not necessarily offering closure. Such is the chief complaint from those who demand all films wrap up every story in a neat little package.

I do not have that problem and am content to leave certain stories open to interpretation based on what has come before. Magnolia is a big, emotionally charged ilm for which you have to toss out all logic in order to enjoy. It does not fulfill a regular moviegoer’s expectation, but it does offer something wonderful.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

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