Magnolia (1999)
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Julianne Moore, Tom Cruise,
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy.

A day in the lives of a dozen residents of San Fernando Valley’s Magnolia street, USA.   Frank T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise) is hosting a seminar of his techniques of  seducing and destroying women.  His father, Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) is dying of cancer, and being looked after by, sympathetic, altruistic nurse, Phil Parma (Phillip Seymour Hoffman).  Phil is trying desperately to get hold of Frank  (whom he previously did not know about) before Earl dies.  Linda Partridge (Julianne Moore) is meanwhile cracking up and feeling guilty, she loves Earl now, but originally had married him for his money.  Pharmacists suspiciously observe her as she runs around trying to acquire some prescriptions for her dying husband and for herself.  She tearfully and justifiably blows her top at a pharmacist and later tries to kill herself by taking an overdose.

Police officer, Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly) is sent on a call to the house of the strung out, depressed cocaine addict, Claudia Wilson Gator (Melora Walters). After finally managing to get her to turn down her music, he manages to get up the nerve to ask her out on a date, which she accepts.  Meanwhile Claudia’s father, Jimmy Gator (Phillip Baker Hall) is hosting his long running TV quiz show, “What Do Kids Know?”  He is painfully ebbing away, also from cancer, and trying to deal with a reluctant contestant.  He is also dealing with the fact that he has just tried to make amends with his daughter Claudia, a reunion that she spurned, showing no interest whatsoever in a reconciliation.  Jimmy seems to go downhill faster after this, as it was probably his last chance of repairing the chasm between himself and his daughter.

After Jim drops Claudia off after their date he is returning home when a strange storm begins, during which he tries to help Quiz Kid Donnie Smith (William H. Macy) the ex boy wonder from “What Do Kids Know?”  To not take vengeance on his boss, whom earlier that day had fired him.  Donnie is doing this after the added pressure of declaring his love for gay barman Brad (Craig Kvinsland)  and being rejected by Brad, and spurned the customers in the bar, during and after which Donnie consumed a large a mount of alcohol.

Two fractured households, both alike in sin in stormy Magnolia!

Yet another masterpiece from Paul Thomas Anderson.  Even better and even longer than Boogie Nights (1997).  But with a similar style, structure, and message.  Some of the characters are arrogant and selfish, others with a history of doing others wrong, and just a few innocents.

In this one cataclysm of  a day these people have to confront their pasts, and atone for their sins, and those that do not die, change their attitudes to the world and the way the treat the people in it.  They shall go through a traumatic time, which they will come through and learn from.  And their lives and the way they lead them will change.  Who was it who said true knowledge only comes from suffering?

All of the actors are wonderful in their portrayals of these complex and multifarious characters.  Showing the good, and the despicable traits of the characters.  Tom cruise is wonderful and utterly vile as Frank T.J. Mackey.  But he is totally entrancing throughout with his misogynistic and almost psychotic training program, for men who wish to never in their lives have a serious loving relationship, and just want an endless stream of anonymous sexual encounters.  Unfortunately continuing his life on the same selfish and atrocious path that his father had trod.  For which he hates his father!

Julianne Moore is magnificent as always.  Stressed out, guilt ridden and again walking the edge under the watchful eye of P.T. Anderson.  John C. Reilly is brilliant as the altruistic, innocent and caring police officer.  Desperate for a loving relationship to help him get through his stressful days.  More likeable than the iron-pumping-porn-star-magician-musician (singer/actress/model) he played in Boogie Nights (1997).  He and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, as the nurse, are this pieces two most innocent, caring and altruistic characters.  After his brilliant portrayal of Little Bill, the constantly betrayed husband in Boogie Nights (1997), William H. Macy sad and  downtrodden again here, strides forward again showing himself to be one of today’s greatest character actors sitting comfortably in the Anderson stable.

The hour-long montage in the middle has to be one of the longest, even rivaling Sergei Eisenstein’s Odessa Steps sequence in “The Battleship Potemkin” (1925) for length and ability to steal breath.  This greatly heightens the suspense as we pass through the crucial moments of the characters lives when everything is about to go wrong for every one of them.  Even at the point where the singing happens, it does not come across as a joke, or a parody, but as yet another very moving part of the film.

Boogie Nights (1997) was brilliant, this is even better!  I don’t know where P.T. Anderson is going to go after the masterpiece that is Magnolia.  Hopefully he will continue to show us greatly flawed characters with lessons to learn.  Hopefully he will keep some of his favourite actors.  And Hopefully he will keep providing us with this cathartic and learning process that we so desperately need, and that his work to date has provided.

This is a masterpiece, probably the best American film of the year, and one of the best in quite a while.  But remember this aint a Hollywood film.  THIS IS A PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON FILM!


Review By Giovanni Pistachio. Giovanni can be contacted at: – 

© Owned Giovanni Pistachio.


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