Director Paul Thomas Anderson's latest movie opens with three disparate scenes, each chosen to illustrate the vast, incalculable impact of chance in our lives. Then it settles down to trace graceful interconnecting gyres among its ensemble cast, a well-imagined group of Californians.
The ragtag assortment of colliding souls includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, and Jason Robards. Tom Cruise plays Jerry Maguire's evil twin brother: a sleazy, macho self-help guru. There's a dying producer, a burned-out gameshow kid genius, a television host and his coke-addict daughter, and several more characters to whom Anderson brings vivid life. Like his Boogie Nights, Magnolia provides a formally impressive, soundly acted sprawl held together by the vision of its director.
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