Cinema: Magnolia

STARRING: Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Jason Robards DIRECTOR: Paul Thomas Anderson OPENS: Dec. 17 in N.Y.C. and L.A.; wide Jan. 7

Paul Thomas Anderson is out to prove the obvious: that we live in a chance universe, that coincidence and mishap play a larger role in our destinies than we like to think. In Magnolia he intertwines four disparate (but equally glum) stories of people living in California's San Fernando Valley and shows how they touch--or fail to touch--one another in the course of a single, very long day.

The result is a hard-striving, convoluted movie, which never...

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