Catching Up: “Magnolia”

IMG_0330.JPGThe ambitious film is nothing new for Hollywood studios. Some manage to be exceptional films, that last years. Others, just exist, for better or worse, usually not deserving the acclaim that came with it at the time of its release.

The New Line Cinema film “Magnolia”, is certainly an ambitious film, but it doesn’t manage to be much more than that.

This drama stars Jeremy Blackman (“Law & Order: Criminal Intent”, “Crown Heights”), Tom Cruise (“Edge of Tomorrow”, “Oblivion”), Julianne Moore (upcoming “Still Alice”, upcoming “Maps to the Stars”), Melinda Dillon (“Heartland”, “Reign Over Me”), Philip Baker Hall (“Rake”, “Bad Words”), Philip Seymour Hoffman (upcoming “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I”, “A Most Wanted Man”), Ricky Jay (“Flash Forward”, “The Brothers Bloom”), William H. Macy (“Shameless”, “A Single Shot”), Alfred Molina (“Matador”, “The Normal Heart”), John C. Reilly (“Guardians of the Galaxy”, “Life After Beth”), Jason Robards (“Julia”, “All the President’s Men”), and Melora Walters (“Rake”, “Short Term 12”).

The film is written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (upcoming “Inherent Vice”, “The Master”).

The film originally opened in a limited run on Dec. 17, 1999. It then expanded into a wide release on Jan. 7, 2000. It would go on to be nominated for three Academy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards and three Screen Actors Guild Awards.

To be honest, I’m not sure what exactly was my motivation behind seeing this film. I hadn’t had any kind of desire for the majority of the last 15 years, but all of a sudden I wanted to see it. Why? Even now as I struggle to think on if there was anything redeeming about this film, I can’t figure out a reason. Too late now, I suppose.

The biggest problem, as is becoming a big theme for a lot of films I watch, the length. The length itself could vary, but the general idea behind how length affects me is based on the pacing of the film. This film was long and slow and ultimately boring. All these factors, one leading into the other, did nothing for me, especially when it came to my willingness to finish the film. Strangely I managed. Would it have been better or more enjoyable if the film had been far shorter in final runtime? Maybe, but if the pacing had been the same and all the characters existing, probably not.

The acting was fine, as I would expect, but it did nothing for me overall. In finding myself incapable of liking any of the characters, I found myself exhausted by them. That’s the simple problem, there were too many characters, vying for the same amount, if not more, screen time than the other person. This also speaks volumes of why this film was so unnecessarily long.

So, characters. The characters in their individual storylines, are actually quite interesting. Each one had something going that made them so unique, and more fun to watch than another. I like the idea of each character being connected in some way, if only slightly, but when actually executed, it’s another thing all together. Here, and I believe it’s again, due to the fact that there are way more characters than need be. There needs to be some way too make all these segments and transitions interesting, because if you don’t, then it won’t matter whether or not any of the characters are fun to watch.

The film started off interesting enough, I was instantly intrigued by Moore, but slowly it became this dull film that was incredibly difficult to follow. More so if you turned your attention away for even the slightest of moments. At some point I couldn’t even figure out why Macy was in this film. What was the purpose of his character? Cruise, who was nominated for an Academy Award, may have been mildly interesting as a disgusting jerk, but I wouldn’t have considered his work anything special. He was just gross and irritating. There was nothing for me to latch onto as a way to sympathize, which was clearly attempted, but I couldn’t find myself caring.

Time and again, usually after, I find myself wondering why it is that I just sat through a given film. I usually can’t answer that question and move on to the next film, be it an exciting one or a dull one. Here, I can’t understand the appeal at all. The broad idea of the film, I get. However, when you throw in all the elements, that’s where things should hopefully come together and make a nice finished product. This film wanted so much too occur, that it lost sight somewhere. The film almost works better as a kind of “Choose Your Own Adventure” story. It’s no wonder I found the start and run through, with raining frogs, so strange, annoying and stupid. It’s almost as if Anderson decided any kind of logic this film had, should be thrown out the window. It’s rare that I can be so far off the mark when seeking out well regarded films, especially award nominated ones, but here I was. I may need to start going about things differently from now on.

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