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Movie Review

Random Lives, Bound by Chance

'Magnolia,' from writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson, proves even more ambitious than his acclaimed 'Boogie Nights.'

December 17, 1999|KENNETH TURAN | TIMES FILM CRITIC

Easily the most dynamic person on the small screen (and, as played by Cruise, on the large as well) is the wonderfully named Frank T.J. Mackey, a television motivational speaker with a most peculiar calling. Handsome, cocky, with a magnetic line of gab, Mackey is the ultimate male chauvinist with a phone number that says it all: 1-877-TAME HER. Preaching and teaching a profanity-laced philosophy of penile supremacy he calls "Seduce and Destroy," Mackey gives Cruise the chance to cut loose by doing amusing riffs on his charismatic superstar image. It's great fun, expertly written and performed, and all the more enjoyable because the self-parody element is unexpected.

*

Exciting as "Magnolia" can be to watch, it wouldn't be fair to the writer-director and his considerable potential to call it completely successful. Some of the film's emotional payoffs are predictable and less than profound, some revelations are not that revealing, and we don't connect with all of "Magnolia's" characters as much as might be hoped. Still, it's an impressive piece of work with some fine acting that makes holding our interest for three-plus hours seem easy. Maybe, for someone as talented as Paul Thomas Anderson, it is.

* MPAA rating: R, for strong language, drug use, sexuality and some violence. Times guidelines: extremely adult themes.

'Magnolia'

Jeremy Blackman: Stanley Spector

Tom Cruise: Frank T.J. Mackey

Melinda Dillon: Rose Gator

Philip Baker Hall: Jimmy Gator

Philip Seymour Hoffman: Phil Parma

William H. Macy: Donnie Smith

Julianne Moore: Linda Partridge

John C. Reilly: Jim Kurring

Jason Robards: Earl Partridge

Melora Walters: Claudia Gator

A Joanne Sellar/Ghoulardi Film Co. production, released by New Line Cinema. Director Paul Thomas Anderson. Producer Joanne Sellar. Executive producers Michael De Luca, Lynn Harris. Screenplay Paul Thomas Anderson. Cinematographer Robert Elswit. Editor Dylan Tichenor. Costumes Mark Bridges. Music Jon Brion. Songs by Aimee Mann. Production design William Arnold, Mark Bridges. Art director David Nakabayashi. Set decorator Chris Spellman. Running time: 3 hours, 8 minutes.

In limited release.

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