Review of Magnolia

Magnolia (1999)
13 September 2000
Those who enjoyed Mangolia have a habit of rubbishing the opinion of those who didn't, and dismissing them as ignorant, brain-dead and bereft of emotional appreciation.

I expected to enjoy Magnolia, as the trailer made it look like an interesting film. How wrong I was! For Magnolia is a ludicrously overlong, completely self-indulgent, mawkish mess of a film. Yes, there are separate stories and characters in it that intertwine, but this process is so tedious and the characters themselves so bland and uninteresting that you're just not interested when the 'Short Cuts' moments come about.

Mangolia is full of people crying over their many malfunctions. There is a game show host with cancer, a lonely cop, a sexually abused girl, a genius kid whose Dad won't show love for him, a glamorous misogynist with a secret past, a man smitten with love for a bartender, and many others. The manner in which their suffering is documented is unsubtle and often laughable. Several of Julianne Moore's scenes, in particular, are so unbelievably melodramatic that you wonder whether the critics were watching the same movie as you. At one point, the characters, all in different locations and situations, begin to sing along to a song from Aimee Mann's soundtrack. Intended to be a classic moment, this is so hilariously stupid you have to laugh out loud at it.

But you can't get too many laughs from Magnolia, as it takes itself so terribly seriously. The dying man's pointless ten-minute monologue emphasises just how lamentably bloated the whole thing is. Yes, there are messages, presented so blatantly they'd make Ollie Stone cringe: 'loneliness is bad' or, as the song goes, 'one is the loneliest number', 'love your kids', 'everybody hurts', etc, etc, etc. Magnolia is no classic. Rather, it is one of the worst films I have ever seen. Anderson's direction is colourful and occasionally innovative, but overall, the film is woeful. None of the actors do themselves any favours either.
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