ruas-magnolia-homeA rainy-day tapestry of fear, failure, and forgiveness. Really, it’s a pop opera (with a score by Harry Nilsson and Aimee Mann), and the characters don’t know it until they intersect at the hands of the shepherd – or Magnolia Blvd., the movie’s throughline. The shepherd may be the director, Paul Thomas Anderson, or a cosmic goof – or both. I like the message: we’re bound together in this art called life; it’s hard, and it’s bigger than all of us. Still, the actors improvise poorly; and the deus ex machina, while of a piece with the rest of the film, puts me off.

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