Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson
Keywords: Drama, Los Angeles
Review by Walter Frith (posted on 9-Jun-2007)
'Hard Eight' and
'Boogie Nights'. 1996 and 1997 were good years for director Paul Thomas
Anderson. Two films that established him as a hard boiled and
progressive film maker. His influential style, that of a young Robert
Altman, was breath taking to behold. Particularly 'Boogie Nights'. A
film which spanned six years and gave us an evenly balanced look at
several characterizations and the film knew where its high points and
low points were. The decibel level was right on the money. My, how
things change. 'Magnolia' is an over stuffed stinker that reeks with
pretentious situations and over written scenes of ulcerating ugliness.
It does this from its opening scene and tries to explain that
co-incidence and unlikeliness are the most bizarre facts of life The
most depressing film I've ever seen is 1998's 'Affliction'. Superb
acting from all (including James Coburn's Oscar win for Best Supporting
Actor) but the film had a strange and curious path of familiarity for
many families and the picture concentrated itself on the actions of
only a few major characters. I said in my review that while being
truthful, that didn't seem to matter much because the overall purpose
of film is to entertain and I questioned the entertainment value of
such a film and a similarly depressing film from 1998 entitled 'A
Simple Plan' which suffered from the same fate and while recommending
that film, I like it less and less the more I think about it. I had to
debate for almost a week and finally gave 'Affliction' a marginal
recommendation for its stain of genuine emotional truth. 'Magnolia'
also makes the mistake of trying to bombard the screen with too much
over the top material that it loses track of its entertainment value.
The film is like being grabbed by an octopus and pulled in so many
directions that you're exhausted after finally escaping, the equivalent
of leaving the theatre for movie goers. Leaving 'Magnolia' is indeed an
escape rather than a departure. The film's glib symmetry will be
mistaken by some as high powered drama but it suffers from an ending
which goes against the first rule of screen writing. I call it the 'red
herring' factor. A final scene that is out of left field with no
warning given to the audience and is a ridiculous and cheap way to end
all it thinks its accomplished. The story is an ensemble piece that
shows the lives of about a dozen characters, some of whom aren't worth
mentioning because their scenes are so one dimensional. Senior to the
film is Jason Robards, a dying man named Earl Partridge who is trying
to contact his long lost son Frank (Tom Cruise) who has changed his
last name to Mackey and wants nothing to do with the dying spirit of
his father after being contacted by Earl's home care worker (Philip
Seymour Hoffman). Frank Mackey is a kind of manipulative motivational
speaker. He tries to expand other men's horizons in the sexual universe
by telling them what sex really is and how to use it to get members of
the opposite gender to fall immediately for them. His seminars come
complete with a spotlight, head set microphone and flashy wardrobe.
Some good work here by Cruise, but I hope the members of the Academy
don't give him an Oscar for it. If they do, it will be in part, a
sympathy vote to compensate Cruise for the ridiculous amount of time he
spent making 'Eyes Wide Shut'. Sure, a great film in the end and one of
the best of 1999 but a film that could have been made in only a few
months. Earl Partridge is also filled with regret for marrying an
uncaring and unloving woman named Linda (Julianne Moore). A neurotic,
maniacal female who hates her step son Frank. Meet Jimmy Gator (Philip
Baker Hall). He is the host of a game show where a group of kids on one
side, take on a group of adults on the other and all the trappings of
the game show world are explored in such a manner as to leave the most
foul taste in your mouth after it's all over. Jimmy is dying and only
has a couple of months left to live and tries to make amends with his
wife (Melinda Dillon) and his drug addicted daughter (Melora Walters),
who is about to warm up to a police officer (John C. Reilly). Then
there is the most boring of the stories involving a former child genius
(William H. Macy) as a loser who works at a job he is too overqualified
for. Was William H. Macy trying to top himself by playing a loser
similar to the one he played in his Oscar nominated role in 'Fargo'.
You won't top that one, Billy! What is most shocking about 'Magnolia'
is how it uses its music score. The music literally goes on for so long
that it obliterates the senses and doesn't know when to quit. The
audience I saw it with was stone faced throughout its ridiculous
running time of three hours and gasps of shock and disbelief hit the
auditorium during the unlikely climax. What little there is to rave
about in some of the performances, notably Cruise and Reilly, is
drowned out by a protracted chemistry among its cast and is comparable
to having one of your teeth pulled without anesthetic and then needing
all of your teeth removed because your dentist fouled up. In other
words, the film sets off a chain reaction of dreariness you won't
recover from anytime soon and you won't even care about its characters
when it's all said and done. Visit FILM FOLLOW-UP by Walter Frith
Review by Peter Mehit (posted on 30-Jul-2010)
'Magnolia' is about three excellent movies. All together, it is somewhat ponderous, however. The themes of randomness and chance are well thought out in each of the story lines. The acting is competent and moving. The one continuous long shot of the young game show contestant is reminiscent of Jake LaMotta's entry into the ring in 'Raging Bull' The dialog is strong and direct.
It's the weaving of all of these story lines: Earl and Linda Partridge and the Caretaker with Frank Mackey and Jimmy Gator with the Game Show Whiz with the cop and Jimmy's daughter... you get the picture. It would have been a great season of an killer HBO show.
I still love the film because it has so many excellent moments. It has a lot of truth in it. I guess I prefer ponderous to vacuous.
Review by Martin Grooms (posted on 4-Jul-2007)
Going into magnolia i had high expectations just frm looking at the cast list. A film that attracts the star power of Tom Cruise with the acting talent of Julianne Moore, John C.Reilly, William H.Macy and Phillip Seymour Hoffman already has hit written all over it before shooting even starts.
Luckily for all involved Magnolia lives up to everything such a cast list promises and the some. From the opening explanation about chance and coincidence to the frog splattered finale,Magnolia takes us into the lives of a group of seemingly unconnected people all living different lives, but, as the film progresses, we see these peoples lives intertwine.From bed-ridden Earl and his regretful goldigger wife Linda and Earls carer Phil to his estranged chauvinist son Frank T.J Mackey, from ex quiz kid Donnie Smith to the popular gameshow host Jimmy Gator. We see these peoples lives and the loneliness experienced by them,from trying to reconcile with an abused child to trying to cling on to a childhood of success.
You can understand why Paul Thomas Anderson is considered one of the best young directors in Hollywood when you watch this epic of the human condition. Its hard to pick a stand out turn amongst the actors as everyone delivers above par performances. A film that Anderson will strive to better and for the sake of the movie industry i hope he does because the film that tops this one will definitely be worth watching.
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