UNCOMFORTABLE PLOT SUMMARY (inspired by this): It’s just Short Cuts again.
PEOPLE: Written & Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights was good, Coffee & Cigarettes wasn’t). The excellent cast is a big part of why I wanted to see this. Julianne Moore looked more beautiful than ever, William H. Macy more pathetic than usual. John C. Reilly‘s role is more serious than one would expect these days, as this was before his career took a more comedic turn. Tom Cruise actually doesn’t seem as crazy as he used to, because by 2010 we all realized he actually is about as crazy as his character in this movie. (As an aside, Carolyn *still* can’t recognize Tom Cruise ever.) Philip Seymour Hoffman (Happiness, Boogie Nights, Jim The Bartender in The Invention Of Lying, Red Dragon) was decent. Jason Robards did as well as one can expect a dying man to play a dying man. At least, he died a year later. Meanwhile Henry Gibson (Wedding Crashers) lived another 10 yrs, but died a year before we watched this. Melora Walters seemed so familiar, yet I’ve only seen her in Melvin Goes To Dinner, Boogie Nights, Ed Wood, Cabin Boy, and Dead Poets Society. Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe from 24) is a voice in this, but I never heard her. Just think it’s interesting. Quite the cast. Unfortunately, the story kind of sucked…
QUIRKS: Slow drawn out drama of intersecting mostly-unrelated stories. Which, to me, is one of the very worst formulas to use in a movie, UNLESS they come together in a beautiful way…
BAD STUFF: …which they do not. The stories BARELY come to what could be called a conclusion–though it’s much more satisfying than Short Cuts. However, most of the movie felt like seeing 3 or 4 random sets of characters do some random things — about as good of an idea as watching random people do random things on random security cameras. Of course, the movie itself is more interesting than *random* people. The lives portrayed are quite interesting. There are some interesting situations to be considered, and some interesting motivations to ascertain. But there’s no real substantive moral, nothing to really take home after the fact. It seemed like a pointless, almost acedemic exercise in wasting over 3 hours of each viewer’s time…
CONCLUSION: …But I still liked it for virtue of at least tricking me into paying attention for three hours. It’s way too long. But it has some interesting parts, even if I found it to ultimately be a waste of time. Interesting stories without interesting conclusions. Is a handjob without an ending worth having?
Carolyn didn’t feel the same — she gave this 4/5 stars. I don’t see how the hell people find this to be top-250 quality, it’s not even a top-1000 drama let alone a top-250 movie in general.
The native public rating for this movie is: IMDB: 8.0/10 (208th best movie of all time), Netflix: 3.4/5 stars (Netflix‘s predicted rating for us was 3.3/5 stars). Interesting that the Netflix crowd doesn’t like this nearly as much as the IMDB crowd.
A WORD FROM IAN: I asked the great oracle of Ian B what I would think of this movie, and he gave a pretty good prediction. Hell, he was so spot on I feel like he practically wrote my review for me:
“Paul Thomas Anderson idolized Robert Altman, and this movie has often been called his answer to Short Cuts, which I know you hate.
Now, the two do have their similarities: both are L.A. stories with multiple intersecting plot threads. I think Magnolia is much more accessible in a lot of ways than Short Cuts, in that it maintains a lot fewer threads that intersect in much more meaningful ways. Short Cuts is definitely more a series of tangentially related stories, while Magnolia is more one story with straying threads.
I don’t think you’ll hate it, but I think you’ll be somewhat ambivalent about it, and you’ll definitely think it’s too long, though there will probably be a handful of scenes that you’ll think are really cool, though they won’t save the movie for you. The Oracle says you’ll rate it 3 out of 5 on Netflix – though a part of you will think maybe you wish you could give it a 2.5 – and a 5.5/10 IMDb, therefore making you rather disappointed. Now go forth and prove me right. :)”
Wow. Spot on, Ian. I rate your pre-rating of my rating 5/5 stars!
RECOMMENDATION: I can’t in good conscience recommend this movie to anyone who shares my tastes. But if you like dramas, don’t mind intersecting stories, and don’t mind there not being a real ending… Knock yourself out.
SIMILAR MOVIES: Short Cuts. Definitely.
Earl Partridge: I’ll tell you the greatest regret of my life: I let my love go.
Frank T.J. Mackey: In this life, it’s not what you hope for, it’s not what you deserve – it’s what you take!
MORE BAD STUFF:
The song / singing scene sucked ass and was a low point! The opening stories — where they talked about great coincidental stories like the guy who was an accessory to his own murder — set the viewer up for some kind of grand beauty that was either never realize, or so obfuscated as to be an exercise in pointlessness just to attempt to perceive. I was already familiar with the story of the guy who loaded the gun that later shot him — and it was, sadly, the coolest story in the movie. The one I already knew.
Music: Jerky Boys: Sol – 2 Wheeler Crash