Few films keep you engaged the entire time. There are fewer films that throughout the film you don’t move. “Magnolia” is the only work of art that held me frozen in my theatre seat. I didn’t adjust my posture or change armrests. I was locked into an experience. More then just a movie.
I was 21 years old when I saw it (no life experience). “Magnolia,” a tale of criss-crossing lives in the San Fernando Valley (same Valley as in last week’s review of “Boogie Nights”). The film exemplifies how “we might be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.” The Valley is an area of Los Angeles that is of a time, space and world unto itself.
Everyone we know, love and have compassion for is in this film: The lonely guy who can’t get a date, the girl with daddy issues who tosses away relationships with good men, the alcholic father trying to live down his past, the dying old man looking for redemption, the bitter son who was forever altered by his father’s actions, the drug addicted wrongdoer also looking for redemption and the kid who is pushed into what his parents want. Now, this film might seem too heavy or depressing, but it’s not. Like my grandma used to say, “That’s life.”
“Magnolia” simply says (in an Oscar-nominated screenplay) “here is who we are as humans.” This is actually a film I can’t watch anymore, but with good reason. My grandmother died of cancer just like Jason Robards (“Parenthood”) does in “Magnolia.” On one side, I can’t sit through it. On the other side, I say “Wow, the director really captured how that felt.” I don’t feel examining these life issues is bold, uppity or anything more then a responsibility we carry.
The responsibility is to know who we were, who we are and where we’re headed as people.
I am or have met every character in this film (now going on age 33). This director hones in on us (the viewers) with a pin-point style all his own (for you film buffs, the dirctor borrows a lot from Martin Scorsese). Paul Thomas Anderson was making “Boogie Nights” at age 25 and “Magnolia” at age 28. Many say he was too young to have such insights on life; but he writes and directs his own films, so not much grey area there.
Check in next week for a gem of Adam Sandler’s and the next installment in Paul Thomas Anderson month with “Punch Drunk Love.”
Diretor: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jason Robards, Julianne Moore, PhillipSeymour Hoffman