Ty Burr
July 28, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Magnolia

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
188 minutes
performer
Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Julianne Moore, Felicity Huffman, John C. Reilly
director
Paul Thomas Anderson
distributor
New Line Cinema
author
Paul Thomas Anderson
genre
Romance, Drama

We gave it an A-

A searching three-hour roundelay that follows a teeming group of L.A. misfits over the course of one apocalyptic day, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia is guilty, in the eyes of its detractors, of overlength, self-indulgence, and (oh, the shame) emotional earnestness. Yes, it’s long — in a manner that extends a democratic benevolence to both the characters (who breathe and grow in a way not seen since films of the early ’70s) and the actors (who respond with improvisatory fireworks and, okay, a few damp squibs). And, sure, it’s indulgent, although the group sing-along to an Aimee Mann tune and the celebrated falling frogs seem to me the flourishes of one passionate, nervy fool.

As to charges of mawkishness — well, I’ll take Magnolia‘s tranquil blanket of grace over Hollywood’s standard cynical crap any day. Still, the film’s video release may work to the benefit of viewers with cinematic attention-span disorder, since they can watch it in hour-long segments, pretend it’s Survivor, and take bets as to which characters will go down in flames — Tom Cruise’s vicious stud? Julianne Moore’s woebegone trophy wife? — never suspecting for a moment that forgiveness will come to them all. A-

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