Magnolia; a dense, engrossing epic

My plan for today was to use the about two-and-a-half hour window between my final class and work to, eat lunch, pack a dinner, and watch Magnolia, then use the time at work to write this post.  When I found the film, I was stunned by its 188 minute run time.  I am not a fan of 100+ minute films at this best of times, and this one was going to cut into my well-planned agenda.  Magnolia had a lot going against it at this point.

However, this is a Paul Thomas Anderson movie, and from the five minutes I was in it hook, line, and sinker.  PT has a knack for making the mundane and melodramatic seem full and engrossing whilst retaining a natural form, as in Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood.  I was engaged in every frame, spurred on by the intro to hunt for clues for the inevitable consequence that I was sure was coming.  I was looking for names, places, and items that crossed through the branches, wondering when they would interconnect.

While my expectations were never wholly realized, they were indeed shattered.  Right before I had to leave for work and while setting up Cinemax on my phone to watch when I got their, a pair of frogs slapped on to the window of Kurring’s car.  I paused the film and thought about it.  There was a distinct lack of “dystopia” in this film, and figured this is when it begins.  I had noticed the bus stop ad for Exodus 8:2, but I did not know what it meant off-hand.  Turns out, it means frogs.

For a moment, I expected the other plagues to beset this intimate picture of L.A., but in retrospect, I am glad they did not.  Magnolia is a beautiful, quiet epic that subverts expectations while still being emotionally engaging.  What were your expectations for Magnolia, both before and during the run of the film?

 

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