Magnolia Blu-Ray Review

Critical darling Magnolia, released more than ten years ago now, was really the film that launched Paul Thomas Anderson into the upper echelons of directing fame. Sure, Boogie Nights came first, but it didn’t blow everyone away, is somewhat difficult subject-matter to grab everyone, and your first big deal never can’t really solidify your status.

The complicated, yet utterly simple, story of a group of lives that intertwine is as powerful today as it was when it first hit theaters, and that’s a tribute to Anderson. The same character focus we saw in Punch-Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood keeps Magnolia a rich and provocative story, even after repeated viewings.

Like the rest of Anderson’s work, there’s something hard to describe about Magnolia, when it comes to sparking interest anyway. It’s a truly curious tale of regret, struggle, and most of the things that really botch up this whole deal we call life. Coincidence plays its hand, and is a focus to an extent, especially when it comes to the best laid plans, but there is quite a bit more meat to the matter than that. There are spins on every sort of relationship, and a healthy touch of mid-to-late 90’s media backlash as well.

In the end, let the ending alone, it’s hard to put your finger on a clear statement that the film wants to make, despite and because so many things come to mind. Going back, I feel like there’s a lot of Zen to the thing, though that’s not really a reaction I had at the time. A kind of caution against all this “trying to be,” which is perhaps part of the “you aren’t good enough the way you are” media affront as well. Maybe if you had been busy just “being” the whole time, you wouldn’t have run into so many problems on the road to trying to “be” something else. Maybe. Then again, maybe that’s all just me. It’s that kind of movie.

Simply revisiting the incredible cast is worth the look now. Besides Tom Cruise (who is actually quite good), you’ve got Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Jason Robards, Philip Baker Hall and Julianne Moore.

While not a film that particularly harnesses the power of Blu-Ray, it certainly looks amazing. It’s also a movie that, with a release now, a lot of people who are interested in picking it up are probably hoping for the Double-Awesome edition, and that’s not quite what you get here. It has some solid special features, but it isn’t exactly overflowing with them. It’s also missing some sort of look back or other, which would have been a brilliant addition. It does include a Video Diary featurette which is well over an hour, and chronicles the production rather well. Fans are going to enjoy this, but it focuses largely on the technical side of getting the film together, and doesn’t really give us anything like an analysis of the story. It’s the kind of featurette that would push a bigger helping of bonuses over the top, but it doesn’t quite make it as the only big deal addition for those who really give weight to the DVD extras.

It also comes with Frank T.J. Mackey’s seminar, and the Search and Destroy Infomercial, which actually makes for a pair of great featurettes, even if the only run somewhere under ten minutes each. If you know the movie, you’re already itching to see these just because you heard them mentioned, and they’re actually even better than you think they are.

Finally, you get the Aimee Mann Music Video for Save Me, and several trailers and TV spots.

This is a must own whatever the special features, and they are worthwhile, there just aren’t that many of them. Still, while you should definitely run out and get this, a bigger effort might have meant running faster.

Own it on Blu-Ray today!

 

Check out a clip from the Video Diary below.

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Written by
Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet's film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.

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