Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly, Philip Baker Hall, Jason Robards, Melora Walters
Runtime: 188 minutes
Views: 2nd Viewing
Magnolia is Paul Thomas Anderson’s third feature film, coming hot off the heels of both Hard Eight (or Sidney to some), and the critical-darling Boogie Nights. Anderson once stated in a rare public appearance that Magnolia was the best film he’ll ever make, and the general consensus is that his career has only sky-rocketed since releasing the epic drama in 1999. Magnolia is an ensemble piece the likes of which haven’t been seen since Robert Altman’s (one of PTA’s personal heroes) Short Cuts or Nashville. Magnolia is about ten characters living and struggling with their lives in the San Fernando Valley.
Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman) is a young boy with an emotionally abusive father, about to be featured on “What Do Kids Know?“, a famous game show in the area. Phil Parma (Philip Seymour Hoffman) desperately tries to contact the son of a dying man, Earl Partridge (Jason Robards), whose wife Linda (Julianne Moore) is feeling deep regret over her former gold-digging ways. Frank T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise) is a charismatic and misogynistic self-help speaker who is about to hear news that will change his entire life. The “Quiz Kid” Donnie Smith (William H. Macy) is a former What Do Kids Know? winner, and is looking to earn money to have corrective oral surgery that he doesn’t actually need. Claudia Wilson (Melora Walters) is a woman in a downward spiral of dangerous behaviour until she meets police officer Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly). Claudia blames her father’s possible childhood molestation for ruining her life. Her father is the host of What Do Kids Know?, Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall). Together, these characters create a brilliant, complex, and emotionally-draining mosaic that will leave you speechless at the end of the film.
If director Paul Thomas Anderson wasn’t such an incredible and influential filmmaker, I’d be inclined to agree with him about his statement regarding Magnolia. It’s a beautiful piece of filmmaking, featuring incredible performances by the entire cast, particularly Tom Cruise (who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at that years Oscars), the highly underrated John C. Reilly, Julianne Moore, and William H. Macy. The characters are incredible well-developed throughout the story, and the audience cares about every single one of them, no matter what horrible things some of them may have done. Anderson’s direction is impeccable throughout the three-hour runtime (which breezes by), his camera never moving in some scenes, and doing nothing but moving in others.
Magnolia‘s script is almost Coen Brothers-esque in the way that it plays out. Some characters have very odd and incredible strong motives. Every character in this film believes that what they are doing is the right choice, often times disregarding the feelings of others. The dark humour used throughout the film works incredibly well, especially in scenes featuring John C. Reilly and Melora Walters, who have incredible chemistry and play off each other very well. Magnolia’s soundtrack is made up of songs by singer-songwriter Aimee Mann, including the famous “Wise Up” scene, where each character in the movie begins to sing the song. Mann’s songs work incredibly well throughout the film, for reasons I haven’t yet been able to grasp. As a whole, Magnolia is one of the most stunning pieces of film ever created. It’s highly original, fascinating, and often-times can be an emotional roller coaster. Is it the best film Paul Thomas Anderson has ever made? No. Is it one of the best films of the past 20 years? Absolutely. I highly recommend Magnolia to everybody reading this. 9.5/10.