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Review Written by: Estefan Ellison
Film: A+
Video/Audio/Extras: A/A-/A-

Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Written by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Produced by: Paul Thomas Anderson and Joanne Seller
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jason Robards, Julianne Moore, Tom Cruise, John C. Reilly, Melora Waters, Philip Baker Hall, Jeremy Blackman, William H. Macy
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Buy it!

The most powerful films are the ones that make you think and be entertained. They are the ones that once you finish them, you will immediately want to see them all over again. They are the ones that make you sit there even an hour after the end credits have rolled and you continue to wonder about the meanings behind such an impressive work of art. No other film comes close to defining those sentences as much as Paul Thomas Anderson's reviting multi-character drama Magnolia. While watching Magnolia (and even after), I was enthralled, entranced and began to view life is a different way. Watching Magnolia is an experience I will never forget, as every time I watch it, my self-esteem gets even higher and the world around me feels completely different. A walk in the park does not feel the same way after watching Magnolia. And I am certainly not able to watch rain pouring down from the sky without thinking that something bigger will happen. This is the effect that Magnolia has had on me.

Magnolia interwines many characters and situations into one day and there is not a single chink in how Anderson writes and directs these chains. Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) is a television producer, dying from cancer and whose only support along with his machine are his nurse Phil (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and much younger wife Linda (Julianne Moore). His final dying wish is to see the son who he left many years before with his ex-wife. His son, Frank T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise) is now a motivator for men and keeps his past safely hidden from public view. Meanwhile, the game show host of 'What Do Kids Knows?', Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall) is growing fainter and fainter and his drug-addicted daughter Claudia (Melora Waters) becomes the object of affection of kind policeman Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly). The current game show champ, Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman) has problems with his money obsessed father and after an accident occurs on air, he has had enough. The former game show champ Donnie Smith (William H. Macy), now with none of his winnings attempts to get a local bartender to fall in love with him, even if it means falling towards crime. This description of Magnolia's events are not even enough to give the film justice as it has to be seen to get the whole story. Merely reading a plot summary won't do anything.

If Paul Thomas Anderson's only film was Magnolia, that would still make him the best filmmaker of my generation. While other serious filmmakers try to make films either to homage previous works (Quentin Tarantino), add some more awards to their shelves (Clint Eastwood) or receive a lot of money (Peter Jackson), Anderson instead makes films that have some more spice and meaning than what can be found today at the local 20-screen, stadium seat multiplex. When he makes a scene in which all of the characters sing to Aimee Mann's "Wise Up", it's not just because it's "cool", but because he's talking about how even though people will feel something different than somebody else, there's still something makes them the same and connectible. In fact, the use of Aimee Mann's songs, particularly her magnum opus "One" which opens the picture and through which we are introduced to each and every character, is pure genius on Anderson's part as he allows even the music to express the character's feeling. The actors work along with the score to provide an very soothing experience. Despite the film's three hour length, not once do you feel like your bottom is aching like it would while watching a bloated epic. You're amazed by the imagery presented on screen and the way the story cuts back and forth between everyone.

The actors play a major part in Magnolia as well. Tom Cruise gives quite possibly the work that he will not surpass for many years, as unlike his other performances, we actually truly care about the character, despite him being written as a sexist snob. The relationship between Claudia and Kurring are portrayed perfectly and very realistically by Melora Waters and John C Reilly, who provide real awkwardness to the conversations that Anderson has provided them to speak. The crowning performance of the film is, without a doubt, Philip Seymour Hoffman's subtle and heartbreaking work as Phil the nurse. We see the character's feelings through his eyes and mannerisms. He is the only sane person in this world full of bizarre individuals and his struggle could not have been shown better by another actor. Yet, past the music, the cinematography, the editing and the performances, the man who is the most responsible for Magnolia's brilliance and its immediate entry into the hall of American motion picture classics is Paul Thomas Anderson. Magnolia is his almighty gift of forgiveness to the world and boy, it is quite a fantastic effort to be sure. Magnolia is like a massage and even while writing this review, I still feel it juicing my brain and allowing to think and know that film is the most important and most powerful medium ever created. I thank thee, Mr. Anderson, for this brilliant masterpiece of a film.

Despite New Line Cinema giving Magnolia a two-disc edition, there isn't much in terms of the amount of behind-the-scenes extras. Paul Thomas Anderson doesn't even provide a commentary track, but this is most likely due to the film's length as it would lower the picture quality. No problem, as the seventy minute documentary on the second disc is enough to satisfy those wanting to look at how this instant classic was made. Anderson goes into the pre-production, production and post-production process very well as we get to see shots of him working on the shooting and there are plenty of details on how the film was made. This is a must-see for any Magnolia fan. The next special feature is a deleted scene that delves a bit more into Frank Mackey and his teaching techniques. It's a fun little clip, although it's not surprising that it was cut from the final film. There's also an extended version of Mackey's infomercial, which adds some funny little bits. The next set of supplements are the film's trailers as well as a large amount of TV spots, along with a music video for Aimee Mann's song "Save Me", which is just as beautiful as the film. Finally, the set concludes with some colour bars and after about 20-seconds, there is a fairly entertaining blooper reel.

Magnolia is the best film of the past ten years and sixty years from now, people will be looking at it the same way that Citizen Kane and City Lights are viewed today. I truly can not recommend this film enough and it should definitely be added to any DVD buyer's collection.

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