Tuesday, January 26, 2010

But It Did Happen

True story: Ten years ago I sat down to watch Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia. After about 30 minutes of it I turned it off and went to a mate's place. I didn't want to put myself through that and couldn't think of anything worse at the time than doing so. I hadn't revisited it, nor had I ever even been tempted, it until a couple of days ago when it arrived in the mail. I was completely oblivious to it being so high on my DVD queue, but there you go. It arrived so I figured I owed it to sit down and watch it again ten years after my first hilariously failed attempt.

In those ten years I had seen all of Anderson's other films except Punch Drunk Love. I liked them all very much, although There Will Be Blood curves towards the bottom of the scale with a grade of B while Hard Eight and Boogie Nights hover about the A- / B+ range, so I figured maybe I had just been having a bad day with Magnolia. Three hours later I don't just "figure" anymore, I know. Lo and behold, it turns out that Magnolia is the best thing Anderson has ever done. It's times like these that I have the ability to admit I was wrong. On the other hand, it gives me no excuse to go back and revisit those movies that many call "masterpieces" that I didn't care for because I saw them when they were, just quietly, way out of my intellectual reach.

I'm not going to get into why it's so good because that could take all day, but I will say my favourite performances were those by John C Reilly, Julianne Moore, Melinda Buttle, Melora Walters, Jeremy Blackman and Philip Seymour Hoffman. It's such a shame that John C Reilly has seemingly decided to ditch being a serious actor and has instead embraced Will Ferrell-styled comedies as his primary source of work. I don't need to explain the rest, but it was nice to see Philip Seymour Hoffman keep his volume down for once.

And how about Rob Elswit's cinematography? Or Jon Brion's score and Dylan Tichenor's editing that, when combined, make the film feel like a big three-hour climax sequence. Or the actual climax? Or the "Wise Up" moment and anything else to do with Aimee Mann? And what about that delicious scene between Julianne Moore and her lawyer? So many scenes, in fact, deserved to be singled out. The Reilly/Walters date scene, Tom Cruise's stare, the Playboy telephone conversation with Hoffman, the "Solomon Solomon" bit with Alfred Molina... as I said before, I could go on all day. A


Guy said...

So glad you rediscovered this -- it's a personal favourite. (And Melora Walters is my best in show.)

But you must have been awfully young 10 years ago. 13? 14? I think that can be forgiven.

RJ said...

Eh . . . . .

pat said...

This is exactly how I feel when I first saw this on VHS and HBO, back when I was still in high school. I couldn't stand to see a 3-hour Oscar-type movie. And then I got the DVD, and I must have seen this 5 times since I got it last year, which is a lot considering it's 3 hours long.

Nice take on the movie, btw.

The Slightly Illuminated Knight said...

Since Orson Welles' KANE & AMBERSONS, I can't think of more ambitious films made by an under-30 director than Anderson's MAGNOLIA & BOOGIE NIGHTS (he was 28 when he shot MAGNOLIA. Makes me SICK).

He was just a phenomenal talent from day one (HARD EIGHT is, too, a knockout).

Paul Martin said...

Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love are my favourites. In the former I discovered Julianne Moore and Hoffman, and that Tom Cruise can act if he's got a good director. The latter affected me so much I had to go see it a day or two later. It's magnificent!