"It made me
There are worse things for a lonely, unemployed gas station
attendant to have to do than see three-hour long movies. Hell,
I was so fucking bored with shooting at gophers in my neighbor's
yard I would have been happy to sit through three hours of Adam
Sandler shitting his pants. Instead, I got one of the best fucking
movies I've seen in a long time. I mean, holy shit, what a great
movie. This is why I keep giving those cocksuckers in L.A. another
chance every weekend.
Usually, the three-hour Hollywood movie is a warning sign:
"Pretentious bullshit statements ahead." But director/writer
Paul Thomas Anderson manages to pull his movie off without getting
sappy or preachy, and he has the decency to assume we're smart
enough to draw our own conclusions. His last movie, "Boogie
Nights," was overblown and gimmicky, but it looks like the
kid's learned something since then.
"Magnolia" is several stories that take place around
Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank, California. Tom Cruise plays the
ultra-arrogant creator of "Seduce and Destroy," a guide
for men who hate women but want to fuck them. He preaches to
rooms full of hooting immature guys who wish they were in fraternities
where woman-bashing is celebrated. Jason Robards is his estranged
father, a TV producer slowly dying while his trophy bride, Julianne
Moore, realizes that while she married him for money, she now
actually loves him and hates herself for having cheated on him.
Philip Baker Hall is a game show host dying of cancer, and Jeremy
Blackman is the child genius on his show being pushed too hard
by a greedy father. Melora Walters is Baker Hall's daughter,
a strung out coke-addict and the object of desire for John C.
Reilly, a bumbling cop. William H. Macy is a former game show
whiz-kid who can't afford a decent jacket or tie and tries to
deal with the legacy left behind by his pushy parents. These
five main stories, all with tangential characters almost as good,
collide in ways determined by both coincidence and family ties.
It's hard to describe exactly how, but trust me when I say it
works in ways so damn beautiful that my sorry-ass grip on the
English language won't do it justice.
Each character is pursuing his or her life, no longer happy,
and just going through the motions. Some have faith that there
is good in the world, some don't. They're all lost. Their stories
reflect the similarities between ourselves and our neighbors.
Two characters are dying of cancer and want to confess their
sins. Two characters have love to give and nobody to give it
to. Two women hate themselves and probably would rather be dead.
They all deal with it differently.
In the end, a bizarre coincidence strikes them all and transforms
their direction in life. I won't describe it because you wouldn't
believe me if I did. Some of you will say "What the fuck?
That's bullshit!" and others will buy it. I bought it as
strange coincidence, nothing more. And as that, it's pretty fucking
I bet Robert Altman is pretty damn jealous. His movie "Short
Cuts" was about the lives of interconnected people in L.A.,
but all that jerk did was take a bunch of great Raymond Carver
short stories, cram them together and move them from Washington
to California. His movie was a tedious piece of shit that critics
were afraid to dislike because they thought maybe they didn't
get it. Anderson works from an original script and it's organic
to the location and the way people live. It's not as good as
reading Raymond Carver short stories, but it's a fuckload less
strained than Altman's steaming heap. The coincidence and intersections
of the stories are so subtle that "Magnolia" never
feels forced, and it all adds up.
The cast of actors is fantastic. Almost all of them are character-actors
not used to hogging the spotlight. Their performances are so
low-key and elegant that they aren't the sort of shit that win
awards from an academy full of idiots waiting for the crying
scenes to tell them who is doing some "serious" acting.
These good folks are trying to make a good fucking flick, not
win trophies. They want to tell the story and entertain us. God
damn I love them for that.
In particular, John C. Reilly's kindhearted cop who talks
to himself as though he were on "Cops" was so heartbreaking
that he was my favorite part of the movie. He embodied goodness,
and not in a smug "Look, I'm a good person" way that
Robin Williams or Jim Carrey would do it. His character doesn't
even know he's good. All he knows is that he's got limited ability
and intelligence and those keep him from achieving what he wants.
William H. Macy is also fantastic as the lonely former whiz-kid
who wants braces in hopes that a bartender with braces will fall
in love with him. And Jeremy Blackman kicked my ass as the modern-day
whiz kid who wets his pants because the TV producers wouldn't
let him take a leak, and so he throws away everything rather
than get up in front of a national audience and show them he's
soaking. Philip Seymour Hoffman has a small role, but he's good
as ever, happily staying out of Cruise's way as Cruise chews
I'm sure Tom Cruise wants an Oscar for his performance as
a cocky man-hating immature asshole who is smashed to bits by
a woman much smarter than himself. The character Anderson created
is fantastic, but Cruise is just okay. Whatever it is he stuffed
into his underwear to make him look like he has a big dick really
deserves the awards. Cruise, as always, has a limited range where
you can never really tell if he understand what he's doing, and
in the one scene where he bawls like a baby, he convulses like
my old dog Gretchen did when she accidentally ate snail poison.
Julianne Moore also hogs scenes. Every time I see her, she
is humorless and overacting, even when she's silent. It's like
she's about to explode because she's trying so hard.
Is the movie perfect? Fuck no. It's long and you'll have to
take a long and low piss by the time it's over. In fact, my need
to wizz coincided with the kid in the movie's need. Some stories
are better than others, and you might want to get past some of
it. Tom Cruise is in the movie, never a good sign. Worst of all
is the extensive use of Aimee Mann's music. If you don't like
her, you'll particularly hate the showy, cheesy scene where all
of the characters sing-along to one of her songs. It's not as
bad as it sounds, but it's pretty sucky anyway. Finally, there's
Anderson's style. Everything is either an extreme closeup or
some show-offy scene where the camera is whirling up staircases
or around corners.
While that stuff detracts from the movie, it's still the best
thing I've seen in ages. Hell, if that shit wasn't in it I would
have to grow another finger just to review it. Go see the fucking
movie. Admire how a flick made by people who care looks. You
probably won't like it all, but you'll love a hell of a lot of
it. Five fingers from Filthy.