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Rewatched: 13 October

It may be exhaustingly relentless in the way that it builds towards a bizarre event that impacts upon all of its characters, and it may lean a little too heavily at times on a style of storytelling that had already been perfected by Robert Altman, but Paul Thomas Anderson’s third film is a masterful study of a number of well-written, interesting characters, few of whom are sympathetic in the traditional sense even though many clearly have the sympathy of the director. There are superb performances by the likes of Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly and Melora Walters, while Tom Cruise’s odious pick-up artist/motivational speaker Frank TJ Mackey is one of the actor’s very best performances (the scenes in which he is interviewed by April Grace’s Gwenovier are a particular delight). It’s all helped along by kinetic camerawork, some killer, memorable lines and a beautiful musical interlude. Connecting all the threads, characters and themes (death, abuse, estranged families, reconciliation, drug addiction, intense pressure on children, etc) together is a rewarding and fun way to pass the time. A magnificent film and every now and again I wonder whether it might be Anderson’s best to date. (*****)


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