A disparate group of people in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley all have one thing in common: they're in pain, emotional and psychological pain though in the case of one character, physical pain. They are a policeman (John C. Reilly), a man (Jason Robards) dying of cancer and his trophy wife (Julianne Moore), a game show host (Philip Baker Hall) and his wife (Melinda Dillon) and daughter (Melora Walters), an aging former quiz kid (William H. Macy), a young quiz kid (Jeremy Blackman), a misogynistic motivational speaker (Tom Cruise) and a male nurse (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, this is as good as it gets. It runs past the 3 hour mark but its characters are so vivid, Robert Elswit's camera work is dazzling and fluid while Dylan Tichenor's razor editing and Jon Brion's underscore and Aimee Mann's songs all work together to create a true original work of art. The kind of film making that is both intimate and yet epic in scale. Its audacity is pure American, you rarely see this kind of cinema outside U.S. shores (it's one of the few contemporary American films Ingmar Bergman had anything good to say about). The ensemble acting is impeccable and the film remains as thrilling as it was when I first saw it almost 18 years ago. With Alfred Molina, Michael Murphy, Felicity Huffman, Henry Gibson and April Grace.