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Magnolia was the quickest 3 hour movie I can imagine watching. In fact, there were times, especially with the music was relentless and the audience nary given a break that I found myself swelling with emotion and feeling almost dizzy things were moving so fast. It was a sustained crescendo that PTA pulled longer than comfortable to break down my walls as a viewer. This risk paid off, and subsequent risks, like the Aimee Mann musical sing-along, and a risky ending became much more appreciable because my walls were down.

This film is an achievement in editing, for its transitions between stories. This film is also an achievement in directing, for soliciting performances from each actor in the best, most appropriate, way. The director had a fully realized version of this story in his mind, which comes across through the plotting, acting and shooting of the film. Each actor shines, from Tom Cruise’s energetic, vibrant, force of emotion to Philip Baker Hall’s more subdued but powerful mumbling.

These features work in Magnolia’s favor. But what keeps it from achieving the level of success of Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood or The Master is that the underling story isn’t as fully realized. PTA had themes as big as any of those other films in mind, but they don’t come across on screen as well. If a film could be judged entirely on how well the director and writer bear witness to their characters’ lives, PTA may have accomplished a new height in Magnolia. But a film needs more than to present un-judged, unvarnished characters - it needs a point. Magnolia seemed to be less sure about its point than some of PTA’s other works.