Paul Thomas Anderson’s (“Boogie Nights,” “Punch Drunk Love”) visionary sprawl of a movie doesn’t concede you much middle ground: it’s love it or leave it. The Altman-like California odyssey (think “Short Cuts”) drifts from broken life to broken life (nine lives in all; fitting), reveling in chance, envy, charity, anger, luck, drugs, and sex — lodestones of the LA ethos. There’s male nurse Phil Parma (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) tending to dying TV producer Earl Partridge (Jason Robards; literally on his death bed) who created a major kids game show of the 1960s. There’s the producer’s estranged son Frank Mackey (Tom Cruise) whose misogynistic talent is teaching seduction.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall), the show’s one-time host, is also dying. Anderson binges these characters (and many others) into a vast cinematic essay about love and death. Meanwhile, the sky rains frogs. A bravely American undertaking that would make for seven separate films anywhere in Europe.