The other day we were talking about Magnolia. I love that movie, not in a feeling-movie-critic-cineastey sort of way, but on a visceral level. The first time I saw it I grabbed my head and shrieked to myself, “What is he doing!?! I want more!” It’s the kind of all-out hang-by-your-balls high wire act that film production profit margins don’t allow anymore. There are so many things that could go wrong with itâ€”emotion teetering on the brink of hysteria, multiple plotlines stretching the movie to breaking point, flirting with absurdity (that sing-along might have been hilarious)â€”but writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson holds it together. By the time that thing happens, we’re ready; he puts us through the wringer, but he pays up. Many critics deemed it a disaster, but that is how I want my disasters to be. I want to get hit in my soul, because I’d feel like I had one.
Even Tom Cruise is fine in Magnoliaâ€”maybe not in the scene with the dying father, that was a little cringe-making, but in the interview with the TV reporter, where he looks at her with those dead eyes and says, “I’m silently judging you”. That is the secret to casting Cruise: he’s really effective at playing assholes. Look at him in Collateral and Jerry Maguire. He does well in roles where his little-boy charm can not save him, and he’s forced to dredge up other resources.
It’s been five years since PTA’s last movie Punch-Drunk Love (in which we discover depths to Adam Sandler, not that I mind him shallow). His new film There Will Be Blood, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as a prospector in the oilfields of early 1900s California, opens in December.