Magnolia ★★★★½

Absolutely gutting, and yet, in its grand conclusion, optimistic. MAGNOLIA is a flawed masterpiece, a work that would be most directors' magnum opus is instead one in a series of incredible, ambitious, and resonant films by Paul Thomas Anderson. But even beyond its quality, it's flabbergasting to me that MAGNOLIA even exists. I can't think of anything quite so sprawling, emotionally stabbing, depressively realistic, overwhelming, and yet so...balanced. The entire ensemble cast is brilliant and affecting, in different and expansive ways; by parsing the narrative into so many distinct shards, Anderson crafts an entire world out of the time space of a single day and the location of a single city. Segments are separated by quirky weather readings, there are elaborate tracking shots, and musical montages. The common theme of crushing, debilitating loneliness is felt everywhere, at all times: that this unifying thread manages to come off as so unifying and powerful as opposed to feeling contrived is perhaps MAGNOLIA's greatest achievement. There is no doubt that the film is suffocating, often. As if by design the depression of its various characters is wholly felt, with their anxieties passed on vicariously to the audience. In essence, the film is a whirlwind of neuroticism, self-delusion, addiction, mental illness, and abuse, with only really Stanley, the current star quiz-show kid existing to break the cycle. That MAGNOLIA has a deeper, Biblical reading is undoubtable, given the frogs: that it can be studiously analyzed and picked apart for meaning and insight is even more guaranteed. Ultimately though the presence...the impact of a film of this technical caliber is so heavily contingent and derived from the way it makes the viewer feel. And, if ever there was a film to reduce a building to rubble this would be it.