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On one random day in the San Fernando Valley, a dying father, a young wife, a male caretaker, a famous lost son, a police officer in love, a boy genius, an ex-boy genius, a game show host and an estranged daughter will each become part of a dazzling multiplicity of plots, but one story. Through a collusion of coincidence, chance, human action, shared media, past history and divine intervention they will weave and warp through each other's lives on a day that builds to an unforgettable climax.
For more about Magnolia and the Magnolia Blu-ray release, see Magnolia Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on January 15, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly, Tom Cruise, Philip Baker Hall, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
» See full cast & crew
Magnolia Blu-ray Review
"This was not just a matter of chance..."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, January 15, 2010
Hard Eight. Boogie Nights. Magnolia. Punch Drunk Love. There Will Be Blood. Few filmmakers have delivered as diverse a selection of profound, award-winning dramas as Paul Thomas Anderson; fewer still have crafted a canon of challenging masterpieces, all so unequivocally theirs. Each one has left its share of cinephiles scratching their heads. Each one revels in unanswerable questions and visceral performances. Each one is more intriguing than the last. But of all the auteur's critical triumphs and perplexing emotional enigmas, Magnolia remains his most elusive. At its outset a winding tale of a dozen lost souls, it soon reveals itself to be much more. Shunning traditional plot cohesion, abandoning convention to search for truth, and readily dissecting regret and remorse, Anderson shrewdly explores the depraved depths of the heart, casting his flawed characters in a decidedly human light. Although the film's detractors will continue to describe its intertwined storylines with words like "pretentious" and "nonsensical," the director's devotees know all too well how fascinating, how inexplicably mesmerizing its ambiguity can be. Even after ten years and countless viewings, I remain utterly, unapologetically entranced.
With that simple quote, Magnolia's phantom narrator steps aside and leaves us to the film's once-scorned, ever-scarred protagonists. There's Frank T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise), a misogynistic motivational speaker and sleazy pickup artist who lends his ego and advice to an all-too-willing male audience (at a hefty price of course); Claudia (Melora Walters), a sex-addled cocaine addict struggling with daddy issues and an insatiable hunger for genuine affection; Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall), an aging game show host coming to terms with a clinical diagnosis that's left him with little time to reunite his shattered family; his dutiful wife Rose (Melinda Dillon), a compassionate counselor desperate to know why their daughter hates Jim so much; Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman), a child prodigy preparing to break a record held by former Quiz Kid Donnie Smith (William H. Macy), a lovelorn loser whose boss (Alfred Molina) has little respect for sniveling has-beens; Stanley's father Rick (Michael Bowen), a demanding eighth-tier actor who values fame over happiness; Earl Partridge (Jason Robards), a wealthy opportunist confined to his death bed; Earl's young wife Linda (Julianne Moore), a woman dealing with problems she can't quite bear; Phil Parma (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a loyal in-home nurse tasked with tracking down Earl's son; and Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly), a sweet-natured, by-the-book police officer longing for love and acceptance in a world that has little to offer.
From beginning to tragic, perhaps redemptive end, Anderson's vision is thoroughly engrossing. His camera darts and lingers with the utmost confidence, his quick edits and musical selections lend a haunting atmosphere to the film's mounting emotional tension, and his monologue-savvy dialogue drips from his actors' mouths as if anointed by some unholy understanding of human depravity. While some of his characters are lovable victims of circumstance, the majority are wounded children, young and old, hobbled by careless fathers and deep-seated insecurity. But regardless of their mistakes, admirable qualities, or disturbing realizations; regardless of their vile deeds or good intentions; regardless of how surreal or illogical Magnolia becomes, each character seems to truly exist. Hidden or confessed, their sins refuse to stay buried. Through smirks or tears, their faces tell all too familiar stories. By fate or happenstance, they're brought together; rarely for salvation, mind you, but for the mere opportunity to repent or surrender. Their admissions and denials cripple some and tear others apart, but ultimately spare no one. By the time their collective lives are altered by an extraordinary event -- one that has garnered a fair bit of criticism, but one that's based in scientific fact -- Anderson leaves Mackey and his ilk in our hands to be judged, forgiven, or loved.
The film's performances are equally magnificent, if not more so. Cruise sheds his charm to deliver a disquieting, gut-wrenching portrayal of a man who earns sympathy as suddenly and shockingly as he attracts disgust. Walters eviscerates herself time and time again in the name of a fractured addict whose past is as painful as her present. Hall drowns in remorse, but begins to unravel the moment he's confronted with the possibility of telling the truth. Whether his character's cancer is born of a failing body or Justice herself, he takes every sucker punch and serves up every cowardly denial with the ease of a master. Blackman, far from an annoying preteen with an SAG card, deftly anchors the film and injects some welcome wisdom just when it seems Anderson is considering abandoning such things altogether. Macy bravely inhabits Donnie's lifelong torment. Sure, his man-on-the-edge is reminiscent of Fargo's Jerry Lundegaard, but the actor slowly veers off course until a vast divide separates the two. Robards, while as confined to a bed as the film's dying entrepreneur, completely embodies deathbed regret and elevates every performance that crosses paths with his own. Moore proves herself to be one of the finest actresses of her generation, juggling outbursts, breakdowns, unsettling cries, and heartbreaking concessions. Hoffman infuses his steadfast caretaker with enviable empathy and convincing kindness; his Phil Parma practically adopts the Partridge patron, absorbing his guilt-ridden admissions with the unwavering clemency of a grandfatherly priest. And Reilly? I'm beginning to think Reilly can do almost anything. His Jim Kurring should be a sappy, sentimental outcast drowning in a cynical sea; instead, he's Anderson's heartbeat, navigating the film to an unexpectedly hopeful end.
That's not to say Magnolia is flawless. A sequence in which the main characters solemnly sing the same sad song to themselves is somewhat forced, not to mention the fact that it requires a bit too much leeway from anyone who's already having a hard time digesting the film's eccentricities. It doesn't help that the story -- which up until that point has gained a startling amount of momentum -- briefly stalls before awkwardly restarting. That the song comes moments before a stormy game-changer separates Anderson's fans from his less-than-enthusiastic critics will leave straggling viewers by the wayside. Still, despite this temporary misstep, Magnolia finishes strong, culminating in a stunning third act that places Anderson's film alongside other modern classics. If you've never taken the opportunity to sample one of the director's finest, there's no time like the present. Set your expectations aside, reserve your judgment until the credits roll, and soak in every genre-shattering minute. Some of you may walk away using words like "pretentious" and "nonsensical," but others will find its story and characters are still with them days, weeks, and months later.
Magnolia Blu-ray, Video Quality
Magnolia is blessed with a fairly faithful, oft-times flattering 1080p/VC-1 transfer that, for the most part, only comes up short when its original source falters. Robert Elswit's palette is vibrant and commanding, offering rich primaries, well-resolved blacks and lifelike skintones. Contrast remains strong throughout as well, granting the image convincing depth even when the darkest shadows swell and the harshest rains surge. And detail? Fine texture clarity ranges from respectable to rewarding, delineation is revealing and object definition, while bolstered by some noticeable edge enhancement, is sharp and satisfying. While a few soft shots creep in -- most notably during Philip Seymour Hoffman's call to Mackey's hotline, William H. Macy's bar visit, and Melora Walters and John C. Reilly's first meeting -- Warner's technical efforts are rarely to blame. Magnolia may be a three-hour flick, but significant artifacting, noise, aliasing and crush are MIA. I suspect a touch of DNR has been used, but it's been applied so judiciously that it isn't an issue. All things considered, Anderson's ensemble drama looks quite good, striking even. If nothing else, the Blu-ray edition thoroughly bests its dated DVD counterparts, making this an easy disc to recommend.
Magnolia Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Warner's reliable Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track isn't going to invite frazzled turn it downs from beyond the walls of your home theater, but its realistic soundscape and nuanced soundfield are nevertheless absorbing. Dialogue is clean, intelligible and perfectly prioritized, flowing out of the center channel with warm, earnest tones. Effects are also crisp and clear, subtly mingling with each conversation and emotional admission with ease. Notable LFE output is mainly reserved for the film's music and torrential downpours, but still lends weight and presence to many a scene. Similarly, rear speaker activity is restrained, but consistently enhances the mix with believable acoustics, inconspicuous ambience and effective, increasingly moving score support. Revisiting the DVD edition demonstrates just how much of an upgrade the TrueHD track provides. Everything is bolder, more agile, more evocative, more gratifying. I have a feeling some will discount its excellence simply because it doesn't have tromping robots or collapsing buildings designed to wake the neighbors. But that would be a shame. Magnolia sounds exactly as it should and the studio should be commended for producing such an immersive lossless track.
Magnolia Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of Magnolia offers up the same slim supplemental package as New Line's 2-disc Platinum Series DVD release. But while there isn't a lot to choose from, an unexpectedly unrestricted documentary helps make up for the fact that Anderson doesn't provide an audio commentary, deleted scenes, or other more traditional behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Magnolia Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
As brilliant as it is baffling, Magnolia is nothing short of a cinematic tour de force. It's certainly not for everyone -- its ambiguity tends to alienate many a befuddled soul -- but its devastating performances, intriguing characters, and intertwined tales of regret and redemption are truly unforgettable. Thankfully, Warner's Blu-ray release doesn't diminish Anderson's bizarre vision. While it doesn't boast as many special features as the film arguably deserves, its attractive video transfer and captivating TrueHD audio track produce a high-quality catalog presentation. If you've never seen Magnolia, a rental is probably your best course of action. However, if you've already been swept away by its miseries and mysteries, nab this release posthaste.
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Magnolia Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Boogie Nights Blu-ray Gets Wide Release - January 12, 2010
Warner Home Video has announced that the Blu-ray edition of the New Line movie 'Boogie Nights' –Paul Thomas Anderson's exploration of the milieu of adult cinema in the 1970s–, which had been released as a Best Buy exclusive, will be available to buy from all retailers ...
• Magnolia BD in January 2010, Then Boogie Nights - September 22, 2009
Warner Home Video, in conjunction with New Line Home Entertainment, has officially announced the Blu-ray edition of Paul Thomas Anderson's acclaimed film 'Magnolia', which will hit store shelves on January 19, 2010. PT Anderson's previous movie, 'Boogie Nights', ...
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