Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. USA, 1999. Ghoulardi Film Company, New Line Cinema, The Magnolia Project. Screenplay by Paul Thomas Anderson. Cinematography by Robert Elswit. Produced by Paul Thomas Anderson, JoAnne Sellar. Music by Jon Brion. Production Design by William Arnold, Mark Bridges. Costume Design by Mark Bridges. Film Editing by Dylan Tichenor. Academy Awards 1999. Golden Globe Awards 1999.
Moving tribute to broken hearts and missed opportunities, with Paul Thomas Anderson presenting a wide assortment of residents in the San Fernando Valley who struggle from their lowest points toward a state of grace. As with Boogie Nights, Anderson is very generous to characters that mainstream films usually see as undesirable. Tom Cruise is brilliant in a supporting role as a sexist self-help guru who gets his comeuppance from a relentless interviewer (April Grace); Julianne Moore is taking care of ailing husband Jason Robards but can’t get over the guilt she feels for how she has mistreated him; Philip Seymour Hoffman is Robards’ nurse, trying to get his patient in touch with lost family; Philip Baker Hall is dealing with health problems while facing scrutiny from his wife (Melinda Dillon, in a beautifully delicate performance) and hatred from his estranged daughter (Melora Walters); Walters has the opportunity to get happy with a possible relationship she discovers with cop John C. Reilly; William H. Macy is in love with the bartender of his local bar but just can’t get up the nerve to do anything about it; Jeremy Blackman is a quiz kid genius who just can’t handle the pressure being given to him by his struggling-actor father (Michael Bowen) who sees his son as a meal ticket. Wrapping it all up in a warm blanket are beautiful songs compiled and composed by singer-songwriter Aimee Mann, whose ballad “Wise Up” provides a fitting centerpiece for the film’s emotional catharsis. All these and more are the stories that infect you when you watch this very long but very absorbing epic that will probably remain Anderson’s masterpiece in the long run.