There’s a lot going on in Elijah Bynum’s Magazine Dreams, which premiered this wee at the Sundance Film Festival. Probably too much. And it doesn’t all work. But in the end it doesn’t really matter because Jonathan Majors is such a force in this movie, it’s impossible to take your eyes off of him. Honestly, he kind of reminds me of a great quarterback in this movie. You know, when maybe things around him just aren’t clicking the way they should and he decides, fellas, climb on my back, I’m going to win this one anyway. By sheer willpower alone Majors makes Magazine Dreams something to behold. This movie exists as a vessel in which to watch Jonathan Majors act his ass off.
Majors plays Killian Maddox (a name we hear a lot over the course of the movie), an aspiring bodybuilder (Majors went all out on that aspect, too) who comes from a pretty disturbing background. His parents are dead after a murder-suicide and he now lives with his grandfather. He eats multiple meals a day to maintain a 6000 calorie-a-day diet and also injects himself with enough steroids that he has tumors on his liver he won’t have removed because he can’t have a scar. He can be temperamental and aggressive (I am told steroids can have that affect), but he’s also sad and shy. He basically spends his day working out, eating, making videos of himself flexing, and writing letters to his idol, a bodybuilder named Brad Vanderhorn. (At one point on a date Killian references Brad Vanderhorn and is absolutely stunned his date has no idea who Brad Vanderhorn is.)
So, look, everything I just described seems enough for a character. Already, this is pretty heavy. But the movie then takes us down multiple other roads with Killian and none of them really have any resolution. And no resolution can be fine, but there are just so many of them. Here’s one example. Killian has a crush on his coworker at the grocery store, Jessie (Haley Bennett), and a lot of effort is put into showing us how much he likes her, so it’s established he’s straight. Later in the movie, kind of out of the blue, Killian sleeps with a man. And then we get a couple of scenes of Killian wrestling with what happened, then that aspect is just kind of dropped. Killian then buys a semiautomatic rifle. We spend a lot of time watching him learn how to use it. Oh no, he’s going to do something horrifying. And then nothing really comes out of that either. If there’s an issue in society today, well Killian is at least going to deal with it for a little bit in this movie before he moves on to something else.
Which is to say, it feels like all these scenarios were put in here so Majors could have all these situations to just act his pants off. And he does. But the movie kind of feel more like Major’s personal demo reel. And what’s weird is I kind of mean that as a compliment. I was transfixed! Majors is just this force of nature in this movie who can’t be stopped.
And it’s interesting Magazine Dreams had its festival premiere just a few weeks before Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is released, where Majors kicks off his run as the new MCU big bad, Kang the Conqueror. ANd then a couple weeks later he’s back in Creed III. It’s going to be the year of Jonathan Majors. And who knows what he’ll get to show off in those two huge franchise movie, so it’s like Magazine Dreams is here just to point out, hey, yes, he’s a really great actor.
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