Magnolia (P.T. Anderson, 1999)

Flushed with roving, calculated camera movement and amazing sound design, Magnolia aches with the past pains and doubts of the future. P.T. Anderson’s third feature goes places most American filmmakers avoid – into the haunting echoes of regret, difficult forgiveness, and the lowly personal lives of it’s characters. This has to be considered the Best American melodrama/musical in recent times, not only for it’s incredible filmmaking precision, but also it’s use of color. Like a Sirk masterpiece of the 50’s, Anderson wants to signify fate, adultery, passion, and pain through the use of vibrant hues and dark shadows. He does so in spades, but with a comic touch few can match. The performances are all first rate, but this time out, my third viewing, John C. Reilly and Philip Seymour Hoffman stand out especially – both kind, gentle men living in a world which rarely appreciates such qualities. The original songs by Aimee Mann (which feel as fresh as the moment I first heard them), compliment like no other soundtrack. Her compassionate and revelatory voice lead each character toward realization and reconciliation, enabling them to walk tall once again. Bruised and battered, P.T. Anderson’s players rise to the occasion, some more than others. But they all get the chance to sing. “And it is in the opinion of this narrator it can not be simply chance”, no not chance, that Magnolia still feels so transcendent.

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