Magnolia (1999) Poster


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An Instant Classic
gogoschka-111 February 2018
The music; the way the camera moves; the performances: this amazing ensemble piece takes everything to the next level. Although the influence of Robert Altman and Martin Scorsese can be felt throughout the whole film, P.T. Anderson doesn't copy them but merely uses some of their trademark techniques to create his very own, unique brand of film.

There are so many creative ideas and standout scenes in this film: I'm sure that, similarly to how filmmakers of Anderson's generation are citing films like 'Nashville' or 'Goodfellas' as their inspiration, the next generation of aspiring directors will be citing 'Magnolia'. The film is not "just" a masterpiece, but also hugely influential and an instant classic. 10 stars out of 10.

Favorite films:

Lesser-Known Masterpieces:
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A positive, joyful film
joey_zaza29 March 2003
A rich slice of modern life presented wonderfully by Paul Thomas Anderson. Nine or so "broken" people are followed through the film, each of them at least vaguely interconnected to the others. We are shown where they are currently at in life, and find out what has happened to have brought them there. By the end of the film, they are finally at a point where they can confront what is making them so unhappy and perhaps take control of their lives and look forward to a brighter future (even if their time is limited).

Some people have complained about the ending of the film, perhaps hoping for everything to be neatly tied up, or at least for something less absurd than we get. In my opinion, however, it is perfectly apt for things to end as they do. We dip into these characters' lives in the present, learn about their past, and leave with optimism for their future. I would have found a cinematic "group hug" to be overly sentimental and highly unnecessary. For that alone, the director must be applauded for exercising some restraint. It would have been far too easy to extend the story a bit further and portray the characters as now being "mended", but this is not how real life is and would not have rung true with the film's overall tone of "this is just something that happens".

The sheer ambition of the director is also welcomed. It looks like pre-millennial tension sparked off a mini-renaissance in Hollywood, with this film and others such as "Fight Club" and "American Beauty" harking back to the period in the 70s when there was no distinction between "mainstream" and "arthouse". A-list actors and directors were not afraid to take a few risks and box-office gross was not the only factor used to denote a film's success or failure. It remains to be seen whether the current revival is just a blip. Let's hope not.

As for Mr. Cruise, although this may be his best performance to date, at times he looked a bit out of his depth. At the bedside scene, for example, the clenched fist, intense gaze and facial grimace instantly shattered my suspension of disbelief. This trademark Cruise gesture (as much so as Bruce Willis' smirk) crossed the line between character and actor, turning "Frank TJ Mackey" back into "Tom Cruise - Movie Star". For most of the film his performance was convincing, but when the role required some real emotion or loss of control, his limited acting range was exposed. I don't think he'll ever be able to achieve the credibility he'd like, but a good start would be to take on more such challenging roles, with the proviso that they are not obvious vanity projects or oscar-vehicles.

To sum up, I found this film warm and sincere, not pretentious as some have suggested. As for the frogs? Well, don't strain yourself looking for some deep, hidden metaphor, just take it at face value and enjoy the pure spectacle that you get from the sheer number and size of the frogs. It's a visually stunning sequence, up there with other truly classic moments in cinema.

From reading some of the comments presented here, it seems a shame that many people can't get past the swearing, drugs, running time or "arthouse cinema" tag. To really enjoy this film, you probably need to watch it without any such prejudices, and to leave your cynicism at the door. Don't be afraid of not "getting it", take it as you find it. Just sit back, let it envelop you and you'll be rewarded.
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I have never before spent so much time analyzing, discussing, or viewing a film...
McWoop12 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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often brilliant, occasionally forced film
Buddy-513 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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It's unique I'll give it that
DarthVoorhees7 August 2008
Warning: 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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Spellbinding ride through one day
bob the moo8 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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mag*no*li*a - a tree with large, fragrant flowers of white, pink, or purple
Don-1027 January 2000
Warning: 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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Even liked the frogs
jasonsacks27 January 2001
Warning: 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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Best film of 1999
hal-4715 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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The Calculated Genius
carlostallman2 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I remember being startled when I saw "Magnolia" back in 1999. I enjoyed it throughly and I sang PT Anderson's praises. We're in 2007 now - two days into the New Year - and I decided to see "Magnolia" again with a couple of people who were seeing it for the first time. Shocking really. The brilliance is still all there but I couldn't help seeing through it. It all felt so damn calculated that its smart ass phoniness took over my senses. Only Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance made me "feel" something. When I was with him I was somewhere and Tom Cruise is fun to watch. Julianne Moore is unbearable and the whole movie drags from, by now, predictable turn to predictable turn. The frogs are wonderful but they are just frogs pouring over the Valley. I'll see it again in another six years and let's see what happens. I feel that Mr Anderson, if you forgive the impertinence, needs a doses of humbleness. Talent he has, in enormous quantities.
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Stunning and Emotionally Moving Drama
Tulsa9020 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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Autopsy of the Human Condition
PhxCrtv11 January 2000
A film such as Magnolia does not come around often enough. Though I felt that Boogie Nights attempted the same effect: exposing the base, unrelenting, human desires of Angelinos, it failed in several ways. Magnolia does not. Mr. Anderson sets out to show the underbelly of Americana, much like Mr. Mendes has done spectacularly with American Beauty. At the end of the century, these two films stand as landmarks in the evolution of the American. What we pursue in name only, piety, commonness with our fellow man, family, fame, fortune, and peace of mind, come crashing together in Magnolia, in an apex of misfortune, misunderstanding, forgiveness and renewal. These two films should scare the living daylights out of Americans, especially those living in Los Angeles. The stories show us that merely giving lip service to morals, self-improvement and camaraderie is not enough, we can fake it for only so long, before life overtakes us in a deluge of happenstance and retribution. Mr. Anderson is a wonderful storyteller, and Magnolia is the most visually and aurally satisfying film in years. Ms. Mann's music and the ensemble acting are symphonic. This movie is as tightly composed as any work in cinema one can remember. Obviously, I highly recommend it.
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The sins of the father...
BrianM-617 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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What was the point of this film? PLEASE? ANYONE?
saurabh_j_paranjape28 December 2007
Warning: 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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Pretentious, incongruous, and simply boring.
Egg_MacGuffin27 July 2005
I saw Boogie Nights before Magnolia, so I was obviously excited about this film. Three hours later, I found that my excitement had turned to boredom.

This film's major flaw is the characters. None of them are 3-dimensional and we really have no reason to care for any of them. They simply exist to go through random occurrences for the sake of randomness. None of them are given anything exciting to do, and none of them are nearly as developed as they should be. In fact, some of the characters don't even serve a purpose in the film at all! Julianne Moore's character is the prime suspect of that crime. She's addicted to drugs, cries over her dying husband, and tries to kill herself. And somehow, we're supposed to feel sorry for her. Guess what? Doesn't work. We are given no REASON to feel sorry for her. We are never given any reason to feel sorry for ANOBODY in this movie. They are simply there. They do things and that is it. Seriously, why the hell am I supposed to give a damn if some know-it-all brat pisses his pants?

The beginning of this film showed promise. In an over-long opening sequence, three urban legends are examined for their mysterious coincidences. But sadly, there is nothing even remotely as bizarre or exciting in the actual movie. People meet other people and that's the extent of it.

Speaking of people, let's take a look at some of the characters:

There's some kid who pisses his pants, a dying old man and his overly emotional male nurse, the old man's wife who does nothing, a cop (the most interesting character, mostly because of John C. Reilly), a drug addict (not the old man's wife, a different drug addict), the guy played poorly by Tom Cruise (unsure of his official title), a gay man who wants to get braces to impress a bartender (what?!), and many more.

Instead of actually having any reason to care about these character's unhappy lives, we are TOLD to care. Doesn't work.

Cinematically speaking, this film is actually well-directed, edited, the cinematography is great, but the music is over-used. The film could also be shortened by about a half hour by simply not following around unimportant character from place to place before they vanish and are never to be seen or heard from again. What a total waste.

If you actually believe that this film is original at all, just watch Short Cuts and you'll see the truth. Magnolia is a rip-off. A bad one where everyone has to cry every 5 minutes and sing together at the end before something totally outrageous happens for no reason at all and with no explanation.

And speaking of Exodus 8:2, you will notice a lot of 8's and 2's in the film. Thing is, it's too overt. It's pretentious because Anderson is showing people how clever he is instead of actually being clever and letting people see it on their own. I'll even give an example of this whole "cleevrness with numbers" deal with THE SHINING:

Danny wears a jersey with number 42 Danny and his mom watch the movie Summer of 42 Half of 42 is 21 There are 21 pictures on the Gold Room wall The July 4th Ball was in 1921 The mirror image of 21 is 12 (mirrors play a key role in The Shining) The two times shown via screen titles are 8 PM and 4 PM (8+4=12) The radio call sign for the Overlook Hotel is KDK 12

Anderson has a lot to learn.
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Don't waste three hours of your life with this movie.
dchich1 July 2003
Warning: Spoilers
I can't tell you how angry I was after seing this movie. The characters are not the slightest bit interesting, and the plot is non-existant. So after waiting to see how the lives of these characters affected each other, hoping that the past 2 and a half hours were leading up to some significant finish, what do we get??? A storm of frogs. Now yes, I understand the references to the bible (Exodus) and the underlying theme, but first of all, it was presented with absolutely no resolution, and second of all it would be lost to anyone who has not read the bible (a significant portion of the population) or Charles Fort (a still larger portion). As a somewhat well read person, I thought this movie was a self indulgent poor imitation of a seinfeld episode.

Don't waste your time. It would be better spent reading...

...well anything to be honest
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The best film I've seen this year!!!
verbalk10419 December 1999
The first encounter that I ever had with Paul Thomas Anderson was through "Boogie Nights." I admit, I first saw it because of I heard that it was about the porn industry. However, I was surprised to discover an intimate look into the damaged lives of several very interesting, well-developed characters. I also was delighted to have found a new and exciting director whose career and films I will be sure to follow. Anderson's cinematic flamboyance, technical bravura, and inspired storytelling ability make him a talent who is emblematic of the resurrgence in creative and dynamic filmmaking that has occured in this past year. Like Fincher(Fight Club), Mendes(American Beauty), Jonze(Being John Malkovich), and the Wachowski Brothers(The Matrix), Anderson has created a truly unique film that stretches the boundaries of cinema.

Many who I saw the movie with grumbled repeatedly about it's length. Clocking in at about three hours and ten minutes, "Magnolia" is long. Even if you are as strong an advocate of the film as I am, you will think that it is long. I really had to go to the bathroom the whole time. But I did not want to miss a single second of Mr. Anderson's fascinating opus. The prologue is very well done, doing a good job of drawing in the viewer. It makes an interesting commentary on coincidence, wjich segues nicely into the rest of the film. The first half hour of the film is the most wonderfully done I have ever seen. Just as Anderson does in "Boogie Nights," the prodigy weaves a fast-paced web of intrigue, flashing tidbits of the many characters' lives that leave the viewer thirsty for more. The rhythm of the film slows down for the bulk of it, as we learn more and more and become more intimately involved in the lives of the wonderfully flawed characters. The film seems to build and build into something bigger than itself. In a way, that is the main flaw of it, but also the beauty of it. Anderson's ambitiousness is huge, but I wouldn't call him an overreacher.

This film is so full of great performances. It is probably the best ensemble piece that I have witnessed. There has been much Oscar buzz on Tom Cruise's behalf, but I honestly believe that there are so many Oscar worthy performances in this film that it is a futile effort to mention them all.

Particularly strong in the movie is the editing, which allows for the interconnected stories of the various characters to be placed parallel to each other very smoothly. The cinematography is wonderful, obviously influenced by Scorcese. I really don't believe that this film could have been as good as it was if it were any shorter. Seeing it is truly an experience. I was almost sad to see it end.
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Coincidences, guilt, mysteries; life.
bobsgrock25 July 2010
Magnolia is an exhilarating experience for any film lover who wants and desires for films that go above and beyond what the vast majority of movies produced today will give to the audience. Got to the theaters and all you will see are mainstream productions completely formulaic, money-driven and without any real emotion or power. It is a fair argument that all film producers care about today is making a profit, getting the audience in and out as quickly as possible and waiting for the next big thing. Paul Thomas Anderson is not such a filmmaker.

Magnolia is not such a film. At over three hours long, it toys with the audience, giving them just enough characters to make them feel they cannot follow until they realize they are completely immersed. It also deals with seriously heavy issues and themes; this is not a film for the immature or childish of heart. At times, it can be difficult to watch what is happening because of what isn't being said or done; the most powerful elements of this film are what is implied.

That being said, this film succeeds mostly because of the incredible acting from the huge ensemble cast and Anderson's writing, which many feel is too pretentious and self-aware to be taken seriously. However, this is a film that is either bought or sold immediately by the viewer. I bought it and once you do, you are sucked in for the rest of the film. Of course, the acting really brings it home with incredibly powerful performances most notably from Jeremy Blackman, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Melora Walters and Tom Cruise, who completely upstages everyone else, proving once again that he is a viable actor capable of being considered great for his time and not just a box-office star.

Yet, this is an auteur production the whole way through and for that reason, people either love or hate Magnolia. Anderson is one of the most unique and talented filmmakers of the past 20 years and to see any one of his five films is to witness a special vision of the world. Here, we get his views on forgiveness; the power of it and how giving or holding it affects us in life. Of course, the ending is complex, mysterious and perplexing. There are remarkable coincidences and accidents throughout the narrative. Yet, no one can deny the unusual power and potency laying dormant beneath these scenes. All that is needed is for someone to open it up, be exposed to its ideas and be held in spectacle for three hours. The rest is up to you.
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What a overrated piece of trash
filmbuff6900730 August 2001
Seldom has a movie been this highly praised been such a pointless bore.3 hours plus to build up to precious little.yes the acting is good but the film goes nowhere very very slowly.if this is so great why did it my opinion just like Fight club people a few thousand enjoyed it while the more entertainment driven mainstream audience chose wisely to avoid this.i made the terrible mistake of buying this on dvd i soon traded it in.
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Excruciatingly Painful
cactus_clunk15 May 2007
I have to admit, I was looking forward to seeing this film. My money situation was tight, so I pinched it from a friend's house, darted back home and felt as though I was in for a treat. I started watching it, and the introduction looked promising. I have no problem with long films; as long as I'm entertained I'm happy to watch a film for any amount of time. At this point, I didn't actually know it was 3 hours long, but it had only been playing for 10 minutes, and I was enjoying it. The cast looked excellent, and I enjoy films that are a bit peculiar, often dealing with a wide range of characters and how chance and fate interlaces them. So I continued watching...

Then it happened. I started losing interest. Boredom took over. Daydreaming kicked in. I couldn't believe how bad this film was. And it was only getting worse. After an hour and a half I started feeling pains in my back, my arms were in agony from the frustration, but I gritted my teeth. I always finish a film I start. I checked the running time, and discovered there was over an hour left. I couldn't take any more that night.

I came down the next morning, determined to finish it. And I did. And it was still excruciating. The plot was weak, the acting was average, and it was far too long. I didn't care about anyone in it. I didn't feel informed by it, I didn't enjoy it; It didn't make me think about my life from a different aspect. What it did do was make me angry. I'd wasted time. I was in physical pain from watching and suffering it. I would advise you to stay away from this at all costs. If you really have to watch it, keep a bottle of something strong nearby. A BIG bottle. Trust me, you'll need it.
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The best movie of 1999.
The Truth6 April 2000
Forget American Beauty, The Sixth Sense, Eyes Wide Shut. Magnolia is definitely the best movie of 1999, and one of the best American movies ever made.

Boogie Nights, Paul Thomas Anderson's previous effort was already a promising effort, but it was a bit too long. Magnolia is even longer, but it's filled with such a spectrum of touching stories and such a quantity of wonderful characters, that I didn't even notice the three hour length. Magnolia is a mosaic of intertwining and intercepting stories, dealing with such issues as forgiveness, hurt, redemption, sin and the role of chance in our lives. And though the film offers a deep emotional catharsis, it never loses it delicate, humane tone. The people Magnolia displays are not the best of men, but none of them are beyond forgiveness. That, to my opinion, is the most important message the film conveys.

As many have already said, Magnolia is an ensemble piece. Acting is superb throughout the film, and though Magnolia has approximately ten lead role and a bunch of supporting characters, there isn't a single member of the cast who is misplaced. My personal favorites are Philip Seymour Hoffman as the sensitive nurse (compare this role to the sleazy characters he played in Boogie Nights, Happiness and The Talented Mr Ripley and you'll notice what a great actor he is), Tom Cruise as the self-made seduction guru (his best performance ever) and William H. Macy as the former child prodigy who never grew up (his role resembles the one he did in Fargo, but in Magnolia he is redeemed of his sins).

No film is perfect and even Magnolia has it's flaws, but I'm still so stunned by this masterpiece that I haven't even started to think what they could be. That, I think, says it all about the quality of this film.

Rating: **** (of ****)
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Pointless, Painful, Pretentious.
mattrichards-9112 May 2012
It both humours and kills me to see so many users glorifying this film. I can tell that Paul was hoping to achieve a lot with Magnolia, and im sorry to say he came up seriously short.

Magnolia, what can you say about it... This film combines a large number of short narratives and characters that intertwine together in an attempt to portray some vague message of lifes ambiguity and randomness. wow, Great message Paul. If you wanted me to identify with these characters why did you make ALL of them mentally retarded... the fact that Tom Cruise was the stand out performance in this film says enough, and he basically played himself.

There's no point even discussing this film, on a basic level, it feels like the end product of a year 8 media studies final.

overdone, and seriously pretentious :(
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Too Long, No point
pieriansprings24 October 2001
I'm sorry, but as I write this, voters here have ranked this as the #103 film of all time. It's just not that good. In fact, I didn't even like it. A lot of great actors deliver some great performances, but the movie is so all over the map that it doesn't seem to know what it is trying to say. And, as an unbreakable rule(which bad directors keep breaking), if a movie is going to be more than 3 hours long, it had better be as good as Citizen Kane(which clocked in at just under 2 hours). At least a long movie like 'Heat' is an action thriller.

This is a message movie. And a message movie, without a clear message, is a bad movie.
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kwinick13 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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Overly long and Cheaply Written.
VhaugnndeixU19 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The dialogue: Repetitive, cliché, full of cursing and is in no way original.

The characters: Are either hysterical for no reason, dying, or just plain down trodden fools with no sensibility in their lives and were really not relatable.

The script: Completely lacks suspension of disbelief. Seems like it could have been written by an amateur in high school who does not know how to make the story believable. A real disappointment from Paul "Boogie Nights" [10/10] Anderson.

1. There is NO WAY a real game show would have ever played out like that on television.

2. There is NO WAY a 10-year-old could escape a television studio and then bust the library window as deft as a professional burglar.

3. There is NO WAY a cop would ever ask out woman who acts like a TOTAL drug addict every minute she is on the screen, no matter how pretty she is, even if he is sensitive to swear words.

3. There is no way a wife would use "You should know better!" as her best scolding to her husband that has just confessed that he may or may not have molested their now grown daughter.

4. Donny was a pathetic, juvenile-minded dummy who "Doesn't know where to put his love." He thinks braces with attract his guy crush. This is a grown man! Even then, there isn't the smallest semblance of a relationship with him and Brad the bartender. They don't even speak to each other! He doesn't know how he's going to pay for the braces, yet his appointment is the next day.

5. Even the nurse was a total fool in letting the pills spill on the floor and telling the dog "Not to eat it."

And at the end no closure is made. Terrible film.
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