Reviewed by Frank Cracolice
(Click on the images to see larger version and credits.)
What Paul Thomas Anderson's lengthy and loopy "Magnolia" imparts are three facts of life.
One: He liked the cast he had in his penetrating "Boogie Nights" and, for good reason, reassembles much of it for this endeavor.
Two: He had too much energy and time left over from "Nights."
Three: He had too much film available; way too much.
In roughly three hours, "Magnolia" tells us in the wisdom of Anderson's 30 years on the planet that shit happens.
This is Anderson as Robert Altman ("Short Cuts"), the young filmmaker taking the tried and occasionally believable cliche of running characters' lives on a virtual crash course where all will interlock. That can be interesting; entertaining, even. Or not.
The "Boogie" alumni playing the characters writer Anderson created include Julianne Moore, who has come aboard with the same effen sailor's dialogue she uttered as "Boogie's" porn queen; William H. Macy as a has-been TV quiz kid; Philip Seymour Hoffman as nurse to dying octegenarian Jason Robards; John C. Reilly as a big lug cop who falls for a coke machine, Melora Walters, and doesn't have a clue; and Philip Baker Hall as a faded and dying quiz-show host.
But the interloper here, as the missing son of Robards' character, is an unforgettable Tom Cruise, playing a guru with a following of mindless males who just aren't gonna take how women treat them anymore.
Most of the film's considerable humor rests with Cruise, who might well be a disciple of that noted philosopher Sam Kinison, driven to keep his cult's brains in their penises and their money in his bank.
"Respect the cock!" he urges his sheep to shout in one scene.
Cruise is a delight, although he and his cohorts would all have benefited greatly from editing, perhaps even the dismissal of a character or two completely. Anderson has written at least one scene too many for all of them and it becomes annoying when nothing but ennui builds from them.
The film has drawn its share of praise, much of it worthy. But it is not cohesive, and when Anderson turns philosophic, his youth is showing. When you ask for three hours, 8 minutes of someone's time, you should respect it.
And the less said about the ending let's try nothing at all the better.