A psychologically troubled novelty supplier is nudged towards a romance with an English woman, all the while being extorted by a phone-sex line run by a crooked mattress salesman, and purchasing stunning amounts of pudding.
Paul Thomas Anderson
Philip Seymour Hoffman
A New York City doctor, who is married to an art curator, pushes himself on a harrowing and dangerous night-long odyssey of sexual and moral discovery after his wife admits that she once almost cheated on him.
24 hours in L.A.; it's raining cats and dogs. Two parallel and intercut stories dramatize men about to die: both are estranged from a grown child, both want to make contact, and neither child wants anything to do with dad. Earl Partridge's son is a charismatic misogynist; Jimmy Gator's daughter is a cokehead and waif. A mild and caring nurse intercedes for Earl, reaching the son; a prayerful and upright beat cop meets the daughter, is attracted to her, and leads her toward a new calm. Meanwhile, guilt consumes Earl's young wife, while two whiz kids, one grown and a loser and the other young and pressured, face their situations. The weather, too, is quirky.Written by
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Water seen through restaurant window behind Claudia, after rainstorm stops. Apparently a waterfall in the courtyard. See more »
In the New York Herald, November 26, year 1911, there is an account of the hanging of three men. They died for the murder of Sir Edmund William Godfrey; Husband, Father, Pharmacist and all around gentle-man resident of: Greenberry Hill, London. He was murdered by three vagrants whose motive was simple robbery. They were identified as: Joseph Green, Stanley Berry, and Daniel Hill. Green, Berry, Hill. And I Would Like To Think This was Only A Matter Of Chance. As reported in the Reno...
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As the credit for Robert Downey Sr. scrolls up the screen, the words "(a prince)" appear next to his name. See more »
A rich slice of modern life presented wonderfully by Paul Thomas Anderson. Nine or so "broken" people are followed through the film, each of them at least vaguely interconnected to the others. We are shown where they are currently at in life, and find out what has happened to have brought them there. By the end of the film, they are finally at a point where they can confront what is making them so unhappy and perhaps take control of their lives and look forward to a brighter future (even if their time is limited).
Some people have complained about the ending of the film, perhaps hoping for everything to be neatly tied up, or at least for something less absurd than we get. In my opinion, however, it is perfectly apt for things to end as they do. We dip into these characters' lives in the present, learn about their past, and leave with optimism for their future. I would have found a cinematic "group hug" to be overly sentimental and highly unnecessary. For that alone, the director must be applauded for exercising some restraint. It would have been far too easy to extend the story a bit further and portray the characters as now being "mended", but this is not how real life is and would not have rung true with the film's overall tone of "this is just something that happens".
The sheer ambition of the director is also welcomed. It looks like pre-millennial tension sparked off a mini-renaissance in Hollywood, with this film and others such as "Fight Club" and "American Beauty" harking back to the period in the 70s when there was no distinction between "mainstream" and "arthouse". A-list actors and directors were not afraid to take a few risks and box-office gross was not the only factor used to denote a film's success or failure. It remains to be seen whether the current revival is just a blip. Let's hope not.
As for Mr. Cruise, although this may be his best performance to date, at times he looked a bit out of his depth. At the bedside scene, for example, the clenched fist, intense gaze and facial grimace instantly shattered my suspension of disbelief. This trademark Cruise gesture (as much so as Bruce Willis' smirk) crossed the line between character and actor, turning "Frank TJ Mackey" back into "Tom Cruise - Movie Star". For most of the film his performance was convincing, but when the role required some real emotion or loss of control, his limited acting range was exposed. I don't think he'll ever be able to achieve the credibility he'd like, but a good start would be to take on more such challenging roles, with the proviso that they are not obvious vanity projects or oscar-vehicles.
To sum up, I found this film warm and sincere, not pretentious as some have suggested. As for the frogs? Well, don't strain yourself looking for some deep, hidden metaphor, just take it at face value and enjoy the pure spectacle that you get from the sheer number and size of the frogs. It's a visually stunning sequence, up there with other truly classic moments in cinema.
From reading some of the comments presented here, it seems a shame that many people can't get past the swearing, drugs, running time or "arthouse cinema" tag. To really enjoy this film, you probably need to watch it without any such prejudices, and to leave your cynicism at the door. Don't be afraid of not "getting it", take it as you find it. Just sit back, let it envelop you and you'll be rewarded.
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