Boosted by great performances from its ensemble cast, Magnolia ultimately suffers due to its conspicuous manipulative methods. As the film takes us through a day in a wide variety of characters' lives, the main soundtrack music makes a sudden appearance 1/3 through the film and carries an emotionally powerful crescendo for nearly an hour. Then, it fades away just as quickly as it'd begun, giving full control to the direction to tie up the final knots. It then makes a less prominent return and accompanies the final scenes in what I deem a most unsatisfying finale.
Magnolia is a film I watched more than a week ago but still had trouble identifying how I truly felt about it, much less give it a rating on this site. The scenes accompanied by the overwhelming music are epic. I felt the tension jumping off the screen, and once the music dies down this change in tone is welcomed relief. I was left shaking. As I screened the film, I was like "This film is a masterpiece". But when the closing credits began rolling, I wasn't so sure. I did not find the ending worthy of those previous moments of brilliance. Yet much more than that, I felt that the soundtrack was really what had driven me to feel such powerful emotions. Its use is too overt for my taste. Films are indeed manipulative. They are capable of influencing your thoughts and your feelings. They have the ability to pull you in and have you inhabit new worlds, however akin or foreign to your own. They take you on a journey, all of you. With Magnolia, its agenda was far too on the nose. It was out to make you feel. It didn't so much take you on a journey as it flaunted its own in your face. Like that one friend of yours who brags about one of his outings but never even invited you! I was too aware of my presence behind the screen, detached from these characters. The waves of emotions that flashed over me can mostly be attributed to the soundtrack. Despite stellar performances, I did not really connect to any of the characters, except for John C. Reilly's; but his character is such a nice guy that I could not help it.
Tom Cruise does a fantastic job as Frank "Respect The Cock" T.J. Mackey, a sort of infomercial guru who gives advice to guys on how to get and control a woman. I may not like Cruise's public image, but the critics he receives for his acting are invalid at best. Have people not seen him in Eyes Wide Shut? Collateral? The man can act. And here he gives probably one of the best performances of his career as a man trying to hide his past and the pain attached to it. He's very nuanced. The scene where he finally confronts his father is cinematic gold. Julia Moore is also amazing as a drug-addicted trophy wife. Her scene in the pharmacy is not only painful to watch, but also friggin' hilarious. I could continue singling out every performance, but that would be excessive. There's so many characters in this film and everybody does an amazing job. My favorites besides the two above are: William H. Macy, John C. Reilly and Melora Walters. I figured those three were also worthy of being mentioned.
Magnolia is a good film, but not one that will receive multiple rewatches from me. Perhaps it's because it's too self-aware and realizes that its audience might not be. It's just too manipulative, ok! Either way, it's still a good film elevated by the beauty of its cinematography, a wonderful soundtrack and some amazing performances.