"We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us."
As far as I'm concerned, this film is the best ensemble film of all time. The cast, a daunting list of A-Listers and veritable unknowns (up to this point) delves into a tragic, yet simple concept: regret. As much as the story is about connections and strange things and coincidence, it is mainly about the regrets that these characters all have. The regrets of a male chauvinist who hates his father and objectifies women, the regrets of a trophy wife who finally falls in love with her husband on his death bed, the regrets of a dying man, the regrets of a adult who wasn't treated right by his parents, the regrets of a child who isn't treated right by his dad, the regrets of a daughter who wasn't treated right by her father, the regrets of a father who mistreated her daughter, and the regrets of a lowly cop who just wants to find love. It's all too beautiful for me to handle sometimes.
Besides the basic story, each character has their own plot that is somehow connected to the other characters. Beyond this explanation, there isn't much to say about the film except that it is brilliantly written and directed (PTA is the man) and has the best cast ever. We all know Tom Cruise is a douche in real life. Well, his acting is amazing and this role is his finest. Frank TJ Mackey is such a complex character and goes through the biggest change of the entire cast. John C. Reilly plays his simple and naive tragic cop with the most emotion. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who is the only character who doesn't regret anything, plays the bedside hospice worker who gives the film its most redeeming and beautiful character.
The best way for someone to figure out what Magnolia is all about is to just sit back and watch it. Yes, this is yet another 3 hour film, but along with The Godfather, it feels like an hour and a half. You get sucked into the characters and you have nothing but intrigue for each of their different tragic stories.