Review by Dave Smith
I'm sorry, but Magnolia as a feature film fails to blossom. Paul Thomas Anderson who wrote and directed the film is still a novice and it shows. His Boogie Nights featured a mediocre script at best and the only reason it succeeded was because of the actors. The same is true of Magnolia. Anderson is nothing more than a Robert Altman wannabe. He seems to like Altman's idea of ensemble acting, Nashville, and Shortcuts, but unfortunately he just doesn't know how to do it. He even cast Henry Gibson who was in Nashville and Julianne Moore who was great in Altman's Cookie's Fortune. Yes, Moore was also in Boogie Nights as was William Macy and these two along with the rest of the cast are outstanding. Tom Cruise is over-the-top with his performance as a macho-evangelist type who sells male sexual dominance to those who need it. Jason Robards is wonderfully believable as a dying television mogul. Phillip Seymour Hoffman who was so good (in a relatively small part) in The Talented Mr. Ripley again shines as the male nurse to Robards. Melora Waters is shattering as the cocaine-addicted daughter of TV host Philip Baker Hall. All these actors are wonderful and it's wonderful to see them do their stuff. But what is it that attracts them to a low talent like Anderson? Good actors can make a bad script sound good, but they can't make a good movie out of it. It's three hours long and if you go, you'll see many people leaving the theatre well before it ends. Anderson has not learned to cut a film. He allows scenes to go on interminably. Anderson will have a tough time getting another big budget film after this fiasco. The only reason it's drawing people is the talk of Cruise's performance, but even that is flawed because the character, the image, the words all ring false.