Magnolia (1999)


It's an interwoven intricacy wrapped in a montage wrapped in an epic film
It's an interwoven intricacy wrapped in a montage wrapped in an epic film

Genre: Drama with a capital D

Starring: Tom Cruise (Top Gun • Days Of Thunder), Julianne Moore (Boogie NightsChildren of Men)

Directed By: Paul Thomas Anderson (Punch-Drunk Love • There Will Be Blood)

Overview: The San Fernando Valley may very well prove that the world is a small place. As we explore magnolia's tragic characters, we learn how, in the end, they are all interconnected.

Imagine an evil alien race were to descend upon you, stick a phaser to your head and say, "Using your Art, teach us about the human condition, and don't give me any saccharine Zeethlecrap". Luckily, I have an answer to this scenario, and, as you may have guessed from the post's title and's Magnolia.

An epic drama about interconnectedness, Magnolia is a film that shows you right from the opening montage to the string of montages that follow, to that wacky climax, that this is a drama that has burrowed its way into film history, and is today sitting pretty at number 207 out of IMDb's top 250 films. Magnolia begins by introducing us to its theme with strange and tragic tales of eerie synchronicity, including the story of a man who attempted suicide by jumping off his roof. As he passed by his parents' window, the shotgun that Mom was threatening her husband with went off and killed her plummeting son. It was deemed murder since the attempted suicide would have been averted by the safety net recently put up by window washers. Enter our cast of characters to a tale that will surely be another eerie synchronous series of related tragedies: a motivational speaker shares his knowledge - a drug-addled girl gets a visit from a policeman - a geeky man watches a quiz show while the emcee introduces one of the genius children competing - and dying man's troubled wife goes shopping while his nurse picks up the phone to contact his estranged son; and for these 188 minutes we explore how each of these lives are connected.

The all-star cast includes a pre-freak Tom Cruise, a post-Fargo William H. Macy, and far-less-perverse-than-he-was-in-Happiness Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but let's not forget the gloriously portrayed roles of John C. Reilly, as the Po-po, and Julianne Moore as the troubled wife, whose speech is my favourite of the entire film.  

    Young Pharmacy Kid: Strong, strong stuff here. What exactly you have wrong, you need all this stuff?
    Linda Partridge: Motherfucker...Who the fuck are you? Who the fuck do you think you are? I come in here. You don't know me. You don't know who I am, what my life is. You have the balls, the indecency to ask me a question about my life?
    Old Pharmacist: Please, lady, why don't you calm down?
    Linda Partridge: Fuck you, too. Don't call me "lady". I come in here, I give these things to you. You check, you make your phone calls, look suspicious, ask questions. I'm sick. I have sickness all around me and you fucking ask me about my life? "What's wrong?" Have you seen death in your bed? In your house? Where's your fucking decency? And then I'm asked fucking questions. What's... wrong? You suck my dick. That's what's wrong. And you, you fucking call me "lady"? Shame on you. Shame on you. Shame on both of you. 

For this critic, what distinguishes Magnolia most of all  is its pace. The rapid fire montage pieces that leak into each other are cinematic genius. The soundtrack used is perfect, and when combined with scenes that embrace the filmic medium we find a film that refreshingly occasionally tosses out the vérité of this drama, and chooses to remain in the realm of high-budget art house, my favourite example being a montage of our characters at a crux in their development, as they sit alone, each singing along with the soundtrack. Once it ends, we return to their rough lives and see how they cope. The characters are the adventure, and each is fascinating.

For as much as Tom Cruise pisses you off these days, agnolia reminds you that, yes, he can actually ACT.
For as much as Tom Cruise pisses you off these days, Magnolia reminds you that, yes, he can actually ACT.

Performance: 9 Cinematography: 8 Script: 8 Plot: 8 Mood: 9

Overall Rating: 84% (Bloomin' Great)

Of course with the raw talent of these veteran actors and the gut-punching dialogue, you might lose sense of what makes Magnolia so good for you. For me, phaser to my head, it's gotta be the pacing.

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