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Magnolia More at IMDbPro »

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320 out of 460 people found the following review useful:

I have never before spent so much time analyzing, discussing, or viewing a film...

Author: Loupis McWoop from West Linn, Oregon, USA
12 January 2000

And it is a FILM. It is no ordinary movie. As a fan of Boogie Nights, I couldn't wait for Magnolia. Although its running time has made at least 20 people leave the auditorium, I have stayed for every single second. The mood and stories and characters keep building and building and building, and when it finally comes down, I feel this immense sense of relief and wonder at how PT Anderson was able to come up with something so clever and intertwining and wonderous, and was able to pull it off. This "movie" is not for everyone. It is thinking-hat required. I have also never been so excited to look up Bible verses before. The cast, as you have probably read, is superb. I have never been so impressed. This film has "restored my faith in the filmmaking industry. To see these actors, crew, and the writer/director/genius at work is inspiring." These people obviously love their craft, and one of my friends even said that the cast was "touched by the hands of God..." to which I whole-heartedly agree. He also has said, ""This film not only teaches film makers how to make films, but it teaches movie watchers how to watch movies!" to which I again whole-heartedly agree a thousand times over. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is absolutely outstanding as the only character who is "normal." His performance has made me smile and shake my fist in the air the three times I've seen Magnolia since it opened. Tom Cruise is also spectacular. As with every single last character, every line he utters is important to his character and what it means for the rest of the stories. Another outstanding performance/character is the part of police officer Jim Kurring, played by John C. Reilly. His character is just so perfect and JUST SOOOOO PERFECT that it makes me smile every time he is on screen. Add to all of this one incredible soundtrack, and you have something that will go down in film history as legend and probably one of the most underappreciated, misunderstood, and definitely underseen films of all time.

The soundtrack, oh, the soundtrack. When listening to the songs, I can picture each exact moment as if I was watching the movie all over again, and it brings unexplainable feeling. Aimee Mann's songs, especially, are a perfect fit to a perfect story and mood. This film is not for everyone, but, if you want to see glorious filmmaking, acting, writing, and characters in action, I HIGHLY suggest you see Magnolia.

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288 out of 421 people found the following review useful:

often brilliant, occasionally forced film

Author: Roland E. Zwick ( from United States
3 September 2000

`Magnolia' seems to divide audiences as much as it bewilders them. Some there are who see it as a brilliant exercise in creative, thought-provoking moviemaking, a film that challenges the notion that modern American cinema is comprised exclusively of formulaic retreads of earlier films or slick, mechanical displays of technical virtuosity, devoid of meaning and feeling. Others view `Magnolia' as the nom plus ultra of pretentiousness and self-satisfied smugness. Which of the two assessments is the correct one – or does the truth lie somewhere in between?

Actually, there is much to admire and cherish in `Magnolia.' Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson has done a commendable job in putting on the screen a relatively unique vision – a qualification I feel forced to make because it does seem patently derived from much of the trailblazing work of director Robert Altman. Like Altman, Anderson creates a vast canvas of barely-related and briefly overlapping storylines and characters that come together under the umbrella of a single major theme and a few minor ones as well. Anderson's concern is to explore the concept of forgiveness and to examine the part it plays in the redemption we all seek through the course of our lifetimes. In this film, dying characters struggle to make amends with the loved ones they will soon leave behind, while estranged characters grope tentatively to establish or re-establish the bonds that must link them to other members of the human race. Anderson presents a tremendously wide range of characters, though for a film set in the northern areas of Los Angeles, `Magnolia' provides a surprisingly non-diverse sea of Caucasian faces. However, in terms of the ages of the characters, Anderson's crew seems more comprehensive, running the gamut from a pre-teen wiz kid to a terminally ill man in his mid-60's. Many of these characters seem to have created any number of facades to help them cope with the miseries and disappointments of life – and much of the redemption occurs only after those masks are stripped away revealing the emptiness and hurt that, in many cases, lurks so close to the surface.

Thematically, then, Anderson's film is a compelling one. Dramatically, however, it suffers from some serious flaws. Many viewers and critics have called `Magnolia' an artistic advancement, in both depth and scope, for Anderson, whose previous film was the similarly dense, moderately freeform `Boogie Nights.' I tend to disagree. If anything, `Boogie Nights,' by limiting itself to a much more narrowly restricted milieu – the 1970's porn industry – and focusing intently on a single main character, managed to connect more directly with the emotions of the audience. `Magnolia,' by being more expansive, paradoxically, seems more contracted. The pacing is often languid and the screenplay, running a bit over three hours, often seems bloated given the single-mindedness of its basic theme. Certainly, a few of these characters and storylines could have been dispensed with at no great cost to the film as a whole. By lining up all his characters to fit into the same general theme, the author allows his message to become a bit heavy-handed and over-emphatic. Anderson seems to want to capture the whole range of human experience on his enormous (and enormously long) movie canvas, yet because the characters seem to all be tending in the same direction - and despite the fact that the details of their experiences are different - the net effect is thematically claustrophobic.

The controversial ending, in which an event of literally biblical proportions occurs, feels generally right in the context of this film, though with some reservations. It seems perfectly in tune with the quality of heightened realism that Anderson establishes and sustains throughout the picture. On the other hand, the ending does pinpoint one of the failures of the film as a whole. Given that the screenplay has a strong Judeo-Christian subtext running all the way through it, one wonders why Anderson felt obliged to approach the religious issues in such strictly oblique terms. None of the characters – not even those who are dying – seem to turn to God for their forgiveness and redemption. In fact, one wonders what purpose that quirky ending serves since the characters are well on their way to making amends by the time it happens.

Anderson has marshaled an array of first-rate performances from a talented, well-known cast. Tom Cruise provides a wrenching case study of a shallow, charismatic shyster, who has parleyed his misogyny into a lucrative self-help industry. Yet, like many of the characters, he uses this façade as a shield to hide the hurt caused by a father who abandoned him and a mother whose slow, painful death he was forced to witness alone. The other actors, too numerous to mention, turn in equally worthy performances. Particularly interesting is the young boy who, in counterpoint to one of the other characters in the story, manages to save himself at an early age from the crippling effect of identity usurpation that it has taken so many others in this film a lifetime to overcome.

In many ways, `Magnolia' is the kind of film that could easily serve as the basis for a lengthy doctoral dissertation for a student majoring in either filmmaking or sociology. The density of its vision would surely yield up many riches of character, symbolism and theme that a first time viewer of the film would undoubtedly miss. Thus, in many ways, `Magnolia' is that rare film that seems to demand repeat exposure even for those audience members who may not `get it' the first time. As a viewing experience, `Magnolia' often seems rambling and purposeless, but it does manage to get under one's skin, and, unlike so many other, less ambitious works, this one grows in retrospect.

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238 out of 380 people found the following review useful:

Best film of 1999

Author: Matt (hal-47) from Toronto, Canada
15 March 2000

Magnolia is a film of epic proportions. A film that is our generation's. It's about real life, real people and real coincidences. These things happen, this is happening as Stanley Spector states. Magnolia is as perfect a film as you will see these days. P.T.'s camera acts as the protagonist, and the ensemble cast is one of the most solid in film history. Told in 24 hours, set up by a remarkable prologue and finished with a beautiful epilogue, Magnolia finds beauty in the darkness of life. In the redemption of the filth life sometimes brings us. It shows us that we are all connected through pain and suffering and sinning and yet, it does not give us this pessimistic view. Certain films cannot be described, they must be viewed and everyone should view this masterpiece!!!

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150 out of 228 people found the following review useful:

mag*no*li*a - a tree with large, fragrant flowers of white, pink, or purple

Author: Donald J. Lamb from Philadelphia, PA
7 January 2000

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A serious wake up call to the land of cinema has arrived with the incredible film MAGNOLIA. Human pain and suffering, as well as the ability to avoid making familiar mistakes, are hypnotically explored in P.T. Anderson's intricate motion picture. This is the best movie I've seen in over a year and hopefully will set a new example of realistic cinema depicting real human loss and tragedy. You grow and suffer with each and every character in this huge ensemble movie.

MAGNOLIA is indeed a sort of tree with varying branches of people, situations, and irony. To get into any plot aspects would be absurd. This is a 3 hour film that flies by so fast, you want more. You won't like every character, but you will find every character extremely interesting. I've rarely ever seen such deep character portraits in a major motion picture. The title makes much sense after witnessing such vibrant, different colors of the human spirit.

P.T. Anderson has arrived, especially after BOOGIE NIGHTS, which he parallels with this effort. His prior film had many of the same human aspects of right and wrong, life and death, but were guised by the porn industry. This guy just explodes with presence and energy, swallowing us with the events on screen. His camera roves everywhere and does not miss a beat. It takes place over a 24 hour period with roughly 12 major players whose lives interlock in multiple degrees of seriousness and sadness. Some begin sad and end hopeful, but these are the few and the lucky ones in this picture.

The standouts of the huge cast in particular were Julianne Moore as the shattered wife of TV mogul "Earl Partridge" (Jason Robards), existing now only to watch him die before her eyes of cancer. She is one of the unlucky ones, a character who made so many mistakes that she cannot do over. Philip Baker Hall is great as the host of "What Do Kids Know?" a game show with a truly engrossing side-plot. Hall is also dying and may have done irreparable damage to all around him.

John C. Reilly is the centerpiece of this extraordinary film. His cop character is the moral middle at the center of some nasty events. He is also the most likable character because he knows how to treat people, unlike most of the others. He sees how mistakes can't always be made up for. I must also mention Tom Cruise in a career altering performance that took some courage to do. He is completely original, yet not the end all and be all of a film for once.

This particular day, as captured and presented by writer-director Anderson, has had a profound effect on me. If you see it, you may know what I mean. Some scars last forever in this life and we all suffer and feel pain equally. MAGNOLIA is like FIVE EASY PIECES on speed. We see numerous people just trying to get along under some extreme circumstances in a labyrinth method, much like the structure of the film's title.

RATING: ****

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124 out of 186 people found the following review useful:

Even liked the frogs

Author: jasonsacks from Seattle WA
27 January 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Magnolia" is a film of great passion, wonderful directorial virtuosity and stunning acting. In an age when filmmakers are afraid to make films that are actually about something. P.T. Anderson made a film that is about the most important thing: simply living day to day with all the tragedies and frustrations that can happen in our lives. That he does it with an incredible energy and spirit and passion makes the film even more powerful.

I got the feeling all throughout "Magnolia" that directory P.T. Anderson really loves his characters. As the camera moves over each of the characters, allowing us to see their lives, there's a constant feeling that we are seeing the characters souls laid bare on film. When we see Quiz Kid Donnie Smith in a bar ogling the bartender he loves, so much of the character is conveyed in one or two small gestures by actor William H. Macy. In five seconds Macy has conveyed the whole inner life of this character who we then see for three more hours. It's a spectacular moment in a film that is filled with spectacular moments. We seem to see Donnie Smith's soul in that moment. And the film is filled with scenes like that.

This film is over three hours long, but every scene fits well in the movie. It's hard to imagine anything being cut, as every scene adds depth and feeling, not to mention the back story for each of the characters. I was entranced all the way through this movie; I never noticed the time at all.

This film has haunted me since I first saw it. I kept thinking about quiz kid Stanley Spector just wanting to go to the bathroom, and the haunting soliloquy by Jason Robards on his death bed, and Tom Cruise shifting uncomfortably as he was interviewed. So many amazing characters, so many amazing performances. And yes, I did think about the frogs. Unlike most people, I liked the frogs. It leant a magical realist moment to a realistic film, and symbolically acted as a kid of purification for the painful lives of the characters. Anderson included the frogs for a reason, and they fit his concept of the film brilliantly.

This is one of the best movies I've seen in years. I'd give it a 10. It's the kind of film that only comes around once every few years.

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184 out of 318 people found the following review useful:

The sins of the father...

Author: BrianM-6 from Washington
17 January 2000

That is what this film is about and "Strange things happen all the time" are the best ways I can think of to describe the overall plot of the film. The story of a dozen people, on one incredible day, in one very wet valley, on Magnolia Avenue.

I could list reason, after reason, after reason why this is one of the finest films I've ever seen... I really could. From the fact that every cast member gives an oscar-worthy performance, to the fact that this film has upwards of 10 amazing sequences I have never seen before, and probably will never see again, in any film.

This film gets my highest recommendation and a definite 10. I say see it right now, and see it as many times as possible.

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184 out of 320 people found the following review useful:

What was the point of this film? PLEASE? ANYONE?

Author: saurabh_j_paranjape from India
28 December 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The minute you give an 'art film' 1/10, you have people baying for your ignorant, half-ass-ed, artistically retarded blood. I won't try and justify how I am not an aesthetically challenged retard by listing out all the 'art house cinema' I have liked or mentioning how I gave some unknown 'cult classic' a 10/10. All I ask is that someone explain to me the point, purpose and message of this film.

Here is how I would summarize the film: Opening montage of three unrelated urban legends depicting almost absurd levels of co-incidence. This followed by (in a nutshell, to save you 3 hours of pain) the following - A children's game show host dying of lung cancer tries to patch things up with his coke-addicted daughter, who he may or may not have raped when she was a child, and who is being courted by a bumbling police officer with relationship issues, while the game-show's star contestant decides that he doesn't want to be a failed child prodigy, a fate which has befallen another one of the game show contestants from the 60s, who we see is now a jobless homosexual in love with a bartender with braces and in need of money for 'corrective oral surgery', while the game show's producer, himself dying of lung cancer, asks his male nurse to help him patch up with the son he abandoned years ago, and who has subsequently become a womanizing self help guru, even as Mr. Producer's second wife suffers from guilt pangs over having cheated a dying man; and oh, eventually, it rains frogs (You read correctly). And I am sparing you the unbelievably long and pointless, literally rambling monologues each character seems to come up with on the fly for no rhyme or reason other than, possibly, to make sure the film crosses 3 hours and becomes classified as a 'modern epic'.

You are probably thinking that I could have done a better job of summarizing the movie (and in turn of not confusing you) if I had written the damn thing a little more coherently, maybe in a few sentences instead of just one... Well, now you know how I feel.

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62 out of 82 people found the following review useful:

It's unique I'll give it that

Author: DarthVoorhees from United States
7 August 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Never have I seen a more smug film than Magnolia. It's a movie that thinks very high of it's self. It's not an important film or the masterpiece everyone thinks it is. I find it funny seeing the defense of this movie because dissecting a movie shouldn't be rocket science. Like the smugness of Magnolia as it's cast seems to wink at the audience saying "This is deep material we are covering here" the fans of Magnolia seem to say that if you don't appreciate this film you don't have their level of intelligence. Magnolia isn't overly complicated, it's a three hour mess about self-hating individuals complaining about how life has been so cruel to them. We are meant to think it is quirky and intelligent by having over the top performances and an overpowering and unfitting soundtrack in the background.

The plot if you can even claim Magnolia has one tells the story of loosely intertwined lives, if you can even call what these people have "lives". All most every character in Magnolia isn't likable. Fair enough, Paul Thomas Anderson was able to make a masterpiece with the villain Daniel Plainview as the main character, but with Magnolia the characters aren't compelling or interesting either, certainly not interesting enough to fill 3 hours screen time.

I'll try to explain the story of Magnolia and why each story didn't work. The most popular game show in town is What Do Kids Know? It is hosted by the dying Jimmy Gator who has hosted the show for it's 30 year existence. Jimmy molested his daughter Claudia who has grown up to be a coke addict who is pursued by LAPD patrolman Jim Kurring. What Do Kids Know's record is about to be broken by young Stanley Spector, the previous record holder Donnie Smith has become a drunken has been longing for the love of a bartender with braces whom he thinks will love him if he gets braces. Magnolia is essentially two stories because the link between the story of the dying Earl Partridge is very weak. Earl Partridge is dying of cancer, he has married a gold digger named Linda. Earl spends most of his time with his nurse Phil who tries to fulfill the old man's dying wish by bringing his miserable son Frank TJ Mackey to his deathbed. Frank is the founder of a "self help" system which guarantees the men who subscribe to it that they will be able to turn any woman they want into their sex slave.

That's the long and drawn out plot and we think it works because there are loose connections. However the connections mean little to nothing in the long run. They have little significance to the characters and how they change over the experience of the film. In fact I wouldn't say that any of these characters change at all. They just suffer even more with or without each other. The beginning of the film intrigued me, it suggests that rare phenomena occurs through these sort of connections. Nothing phenomenal happens here though other than the biblical plague of frogs raining from the sky with no explanation other than loose references to the bible passage by repetition of the number 82(Exodus 8:2) through out the film.

I can't completely condemn Magnolia though, it has potential and interesting concepts but it just isn't executed that well. The performances aren't all bad, like any ensemble picture there are characters and performances you like more than others. I was a fan of John C Reilly's character because he is the least flawed of the group and his relationship with Claudia was interesting, I think P.T.A could have had much more depth there. I think Magnolia's problem is that it's too crowded. I surely would have removed some of the characters and subplots. If you want the central theme to be the connections between these lives than we have to see it and how it has the ability to change these people. Magnolia would have been a better film if it would have come to a much deeper conclusion with these characters because the audience and the characters need to get something from their three hours.

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131 out of 222 people found the following review useful:

Stunning and Emotionally Moving Drama

Author: Tulsa90 ( from United States
20 November 2000

I rented this movie from Blockbuster without knowing anything about it. I was hooked from the opening scene until the final frame and was sad to see the movie end. The character development, plot, and acting were magnificent. I was moved on many levels and felt almost every conceivable emotion at one point or another. The characters seemed so real to me that I was hard pressed to think of a movie that had the same strong level of character development across the board. The only negative comment I can make is that I felt like there were a couple loose ends when the movie finished. But this may have been intentional and was a minor blemish in an otherwise very fine film. Even Tom Cruise reached new levels as an actor in this film. I gave it a 9 out of 10, only because a perfect 10 is a once in a lifetime film in my opinion. A must see for serious dramatical movie lovers.

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57 out of 81 people found the following review useful:

Spellbinding ride through one day

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
8 November 2001

A dazzling epic of coincidence and fate during one day in the San Fernando Valley. This opens with a short story about some "true-life" examples of coincidence designed to show us that these things can't "just happen" and that there must be more to it than that. It then flies into the lives of a handful of different characters in a exhilarating introduction to a game show host, a sex guru, a police officer, a dying father, a male nurse, a drug addict to name a few. After this the speed slows down slightly and the characters are given time to develop and the stories begin to interlink.

Paul Thomas Anderson continues to get better and better with Hard Eight, Boogie Nights and now this. Here he gives a human touch to the director where someone like Altman would have been colder and more clinical. He seems to care about these characters and encourages us to do likewise. The direction is astonishing - it moves at a fast pace when it needs to, it is still and watching when appropriate and, at times, it is downright beautiful in a visionary way. Anderson's tries some audacious tricks and manages to pull them off - a scan round all the main characters singing an Aimee Mann track while they contemplate what's become of their lives is not only daring but works as one of the most moving moments in the film.

The acting is flawless - Cruise deserved the Oscar for this performance, but he is only one of an amazing range of actors including Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Reilly, Jason Robards, Philip Baker Hall etc. They are all excellent in their roles and make you care for all their characters - no matter how terrible they seem or how bad their crimes.

Direction is faultless, performances border on the brilliant, the script is totally convincing and moving. The only weak link is the biblical ending which may annoy some but I think fits in well with the tone of the film, after all, like the film says, "but it did happen".

If only all films could meet the standards achieved by this beautiful piece of work.

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