Magnolia (1999)


Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson follows Boogie Nights with another sprawling emotional epic full of spectacular acting and rich directorial style. The screenplay is an exercise in whimsical allegory, connecting the lives of nine different characters in a sometimes obtuse retelling of the Exodus story, complete with an audacious, climactic rain of frogs. The many characters and subplots are held together remarkably well through Anderson’s moving examination of three intricately connected themes: parents and children, escaping the past, and forgiveness. Magnolia revels in heavy subject matter and heightened performances, so it can easily be labeled pretentious or melodramatic. But indulgence isn’t always a bad thing, especially in the hands of Anderson, who turns the film into one hell of a dark chocolate movie drama. Julianne Moore and Tom Cruise are the real stand-outs among the ensemble cast, as a drugged-out paranoid and a misogynistic motivational speaker, respectively. The cast also includes William H. Macy, John C. Reilly, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Jon Brion ties everything together with a beautiful, emotional score and Aimee Mann provides a handful of interesting songs.

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actor (Tom Cruise), Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Song (“Save Me”)

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