Larry’s review published on Letterboxd:
These strange things just happen all the time.
I've been preparing myself to tackle this one for a long time now. I've been waiting for the perfect time, and the perfect frame of mind to take on what I surely thought was going to be a convoluted and messy masterpiece of a film. Last night was rainy and it was storming hard. I had nowhere to be in the morning. So I downloaded and watched Magnolia.
3 hours later I felt refreshed, enlightened and humbled. I thought Magnolia was one of the most quietly audacious films I've ever seen. And then I passed out....
Today, after collecting my scatterbrained thoughts and going back to watch some of my favorite scenes, I finally came to the conclusion that Magnolia is perfect. Some people say its his worst film, some say its his best. All I know is that Magnolia's flaws can almost be considered a unique advantage. Imperfection is beauty, after all. It hits some snags a long the way and takes a while getting of the runway, but once Magnolia takes off it almost becomes an entirely different film. Your opinion of this film in the first 5 minutes is going to be the polar opposite in the last. Most films would accomplish this with a shock ending, a twist or stupid plot developments, but Magnolia pulls it off with classic emotional manipulation. In a good way, of course!
This intersecting story of coincidence, consequence and regret essentially spans the course of one afternoon/night and will take advantage of all your flaws and rawest of emotions. This is thanks to the wonderfully crafted screenplay that fits together perfectly with the almost flawless performances across the board and the even more flawless filming style from PTA behind the camera. Magnoliais what I would like to describe as a film of 3's. Screenplay, performances and filming style. Actions, consequences and acceptance. Love, loss and life. All those technical marvels. All those themes. That plot structure. All three of those aspects that come together and intersect with each other to create a grand illustrious mural of life as told by the great modern auteur Paul Thomas Anderson. I wouldn't call myself a huge fan of Anderson as much as I would say I admire what he does. I find that his films are often beautiful and technically brilliant, but lacking in any kind of emotion. Films like Punch-Drunk Love changed the pace a bit but I think his crowning achievement in pure emotional film making came in the form of Magnolia.
The plot takes some heartbreaking and nerve wracking turns and it is edited and shot in a way that makes you feel like everything is in motion. "Well duh, its a movie." Well no, I mean that the story flips back and forth between characters and places as the story progresses in real time. It's accompanied by music that gradually increases in volume and the cuts back and forth become more frequent. It makes the viewer feel like there are always moving parts beneath the surface. Like at any given moment there are other things happening to other people wherever they may be. When you look at Magnolia as a whole after viewing it, it can almost be described as a beautiful flower blooming in fast forward. Like a time-lapse almost. All the separate moving parts are all growing and developing on their own and they all come together to make some natural and beautiful. But they are all connected to the same stem.
Much like Cloud Atlas, (even though this one was much better) Magnolia will unfold life in front of you that makes you appreciate yourself and others as moving pieces in a big picture. We are all connected in one way or another, and there are unlikely people out there experiencing the same things as us. We may never meet them, or we may run into them on the street. We might even marry them. But regardless, life has a way of subtly reminding us that we are all connected by the spontaneity and inexplicable forces at work in this world. Wether that is beautiful or frightening is up to you. Magnolia shows it as is. With all its ups and downs and lets you decide what it ultimately means, if anything.
This is what makes this film a great piece of art as well as a genuine piece of entertainment. The film will fly by and it doesn't feel like 3 hours more than it does 10 minutes. It's engrossing and subliminally interesting. I was stuck to it. I was in a trance. But afterwards is where the analysis and the ambiguity comes. It's almost a biblical tale, complete with raining frogs, and its characters are here to teach us a lesson. And PTA is our god.
Well that's a little bold, eh? I agree. It's not a godly picture or a massive Titan that is impossible to crack. It's very simple in delivery but complex in theme. It's digestible for any lover of movies but offers just a tad more for the people who feel a little more connected to films as the supermen artistic medium. This changed my opinion of PTA drastically and I'm almost ready to go view all his films again. Magnolia is all of his films but none of them. He truly is versatile in every sense of the word.
I'm sure this has been an awful review, because I'm just mindlessly spouting off love for this film that I'm sure others have been able to convey more effectively. This needs to be watched more than once for effective analysis. But I just wanted to say how heavy of a punch this film can land if you let it. Truly a beautiful, seminal film. Simple but layered. Graceful but heavy. Flawed but perfect.
I would normally end this review with a dumb joke or something stupid like that, but not here.
See this god damn movie.