most audiences were unprepared for this modern-day, emotionally raw film opera. It is a completely unique film experience unlike anything else made before or since that fateful month at near the close of the twentieth century.
The emotional state of the characters were like Anderson's instruments, their stressful lives orchestrated out of the lives, cares, and troubles of a panorama of stressed denizens of the greater San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. These characters' emotional highs and lows move like a wave of music in this unique film symphony, ultimately transforming these disparate threads into a grand mosaic revealing a spectacularly humane portrait of parent-child relationships.
It is fair to say critics were polarized at the time of Magnolia's release, as demonstrated by this informative video clip above showing Roger Ebert arguing over the film with a fellow critic and colleague. One group declared the film an overly long, confusing mess that doesn't add up much to anything special. The other group of critics, on the other hand though, go so far as declaring Magnolia a modern-day miracle, a true visionary achievement that should be celebrated as clearly the best film released that year in 1999.
And this decades long argument is still active, a consensus still far from being reached. But as time goes by, Magnolia continues to gain more and more fans who catch up to Anderson's forward-thinking vision, who love and embrace this unconventional film in all its spectacular glory. Its characters are among the most fascinating, loveable, and hateable that you will ever find on screen.
Even the popular writer-director auteur Quentin Tarantino in recent years has admitted to a friendly rivalry between him and P.T. Anderson. The two filmmakers have long been compared to one another as they both attempt to outdo one another with each new movie they direct. Tarantino is on record comparing his professional rivalry with Anderson to that of Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift, claiming the existence of each helped push each other to further heights of achievement.
But I point people no further than to Cruise's powerhouse performance here as Frank T.J. Mackey as he confronts his father, played by the late, great Jason Robards, for proof that Tom Cruise is in fact an extraordinary screen actor.
Shortly after finishing filming and promoting Magnolia, Paul Thomas Anderson commented in an interview, "I have a feeling, one of those gut feelings, that I'll make pretty good movies the rest of my life. … but I guess the way that I really feel is that Magnolia is, for better or worse, the best movie I'll ever make."
Magnolia (1999). It is truly the best film of his whole career so far, in my opinion. And in spite of me always looking forward to what he does next, I foresee Magnolia remaining in that top spot for many decades to come.
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