I respond to "Magnolia" instantly. There are some hypotheses about why some people don't like it.
For example, I suppose some critics aren't pleased with the way the characters
keep yelling heatedly. But to me this lack of restraint isn't a flaw.
1st, people (at least hot-tempered ones) scream when they're desperate
or angry, some critics may not like it because of the rule "show, don't
tell" but in reality people do that, and I do, when I'm in very bad
mood, I scream and yell and shout. 2nd, it has the effect of putting the
audience in the mindset of the characters, making us feel inflamed and
unbalanced just like the characters.
3rd, such dialogue might
have been ruined by another cast, or perhaps the same cast under a
different director, but that isn't the case because Paul Thomas Anderson
always knows how to work with actors and gets the best performances
from them- from Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano in "There will be blood"
to Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour-Hoffman in "The master", from
Philip Seymour-Hoffman in "Boogie nights" to Tom Cruise and other actors
and actresses in "Magnolia".
Besides, "Magnolia" may be (more or less) a mess, to some people. 1st, the film begins with a narrator telling 3 urban legends and questioning the chance factor in life.
This is 1 of them:
Then the film has a fast, quite chaotic character intro, with loud music, that perhaps most people are unable to follow:
High speed, long takes, with voice-over, the sequence above and the one that introduces Stanley before the gameshow begins, are reminiscent of "Casino" by Martin Scorsese, but a bit more confusing.
Yet, even if messy, this film is brilliant (there are other films that are messy and at the same time brilliant, such as "Before the devils know you're dead" and "Memento"). Paul Thomas Anderson has a clever way of weaving together the stories of all these people and their problems and gripping our attention and intriguing us and making us care. Their lives are not necessarily intertwined, but all of them are distressed and they have similar problems. "Magnolia" is an ambitious work, dense and overwhelming and profound, and an underrated one. Through these people and their stories, Paul Thomas Anderson tackles themes such as dysfunctional families, irresponsible fathers, failed relationships, abandonment, cruelty, exploitation, loneliness, regret, self-loathing, emotional breakdowns, cancer, facing death...
In short, a film about humanity and human problems. A film about truth.
[Isn't it a curious thing that I watched "Magnolia", a film about broken families 4 days after writing "Thoughts on families"?]