An intriguing and entertaining study in characters going through varying levels of crisis and introspection. This psychological drama leads you in several different directions, weaving and intersecting various subplots and... more » characters, from a brilliant Tom Cruise, as a self-proclaimed pied-piper, to a child forced to go on a TV game show and the pressures he faces from a ruthless father.« less
Chad B. (abrnt1) from CABERY, IL Reviewed on 4/16/2011...
Boring, pointless & very pretensious.
I hate filmmakers like this. They r so involved with their own ego that they miss the point altogether. PTA is one of the worst offenders of this type of behavior. He's like a spoiled child without a clue what he's trying to do. Magnolia drags along and nothing happening in it is at all interesting. It's bad filmmaking no matter how one attempts to hide it.
2 of 7 member(s) found this review helpful.
Daniel A. (Daniel) from EUGENE, OR Reviewed on 2/8/2010...
Each individual character drama is very strong, though overall character connections are a bit loose. The 8:2 and magnolia symbolism are amusing. My favorite PTA film.
David Kusumoto | San Diego, CA United States | 09/02/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There have been many terrific reviews written by other Amazon members that go into great detail about why this film was fabulous or why it worked or didn't. So I won't waste time boiling down all of the stories going on in this film again."Magnolia" is a near masterpiece...The reasons it was a box office dud are too numerous to mention, but they run the gamut from its confusing title -- to the decision to keep superstar Tom Cruise's name in the background -- to the bad-worth-of-mouth recorded by rating services which survey people looking for conventional narratives and resolutions as they walk out of theaters.I see 50 to 60 films a year (and not for a living), and I avoided "Magnolia" out of fear. Fear of wasting time, more important than wasting money. And another concern was the film's controversial resolution, the critical element that determines the success or failure of most movies with a mass audience. Now that I've seen "Magnolia" on video and have finally been able to philosophically, intellectually and logically string together its elements, there is no doubt that this is one of the most wonderful accomplishments on film ever made. "Magnolia" takes you on a journey whereby a master story teller challenges you to hang onto a breathtaking ride of images, content and music, and find the thread that strings everything, including the last 20 minutes...together in a way that makes coherent sense.Yes, the point of the movie is that there are things that defy scientific logic. "Magnolia" tackles this premise and applies it to human behavior in a dazzling kaleidescope of aural, verbal and visual montages -- which make it IMPOSSIBLE -- to stop this film to come back to later. You're pulled into the tornado, wondering how's it going to end? This film is worth BUYING, especially with all of the extras on DVD. But it's also worth "previewing." I won't lie to you. A conventional audience might not like "Magnolia's" structure and its last 20 minutes. But the rest of it is hands down wonderful. I guarantee you will enjoy it. The acting, the story, the dialogue are consistently mesmerizing, from start to finish. I can't guarantee you will agree with the cosmic, unexplainable force that joins everything together in the end. Personally, I would have chosen something less comical -- and saying "frogs falling from the sky" doesn't spoil the point of the movie even though I would have preferred huge hailstones on a July afternoon in California. The controversial decision to visualize what for most of the movie is abstract -- is the root of why I think the film is misunderstood by some -- and hated by others.Yet I believe "Magnolia" is a fabulous film. Whether you like the film on the whole or not, I guarantee that you won't be bored, which is the curse of all lousy movies. Everything about "Magnolia" is mesmerizing. And if the resolution seems initially a bafflement, if you think about it some more, everything will make sense. You will find that things that seem visibly ridiculous or irrational are no more or less the same as the "unscientific randomness" of human behavior that is TOTALLY PLAUSIBLE.In sum, see this, rent this, buy this -- but don't dismiss or ignore "Magnolia" -- it's 99 7/8ths the work of a great young master."
Intense, Captivating Drama
Reviewer | 11/26/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Strange things happen in life; random occurrences sometimes so bizarre that the reality of it is often stranger than fiction, things one would say could only happen in a movie, and if they did, you wouldn't believe it. But then again, maybe those things happen in movies because they actually do happen in real life. And when they do, is it fate, or coincidence? Are these "random" acts isolated, or merely pieces of some larger, synchronistic puzzle that somehow fit together in the end? Thought provoking questions for the ages, some would say, proficiently addressed here by writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson in his discursively brilliant film, "Magnolia." Anderson puts the lives of a diverse cross-section of individuals and seemingly unrelated incidents under the microscope for an examination of these random acts and coincidences, from which he ultimately draws some conclusions about providence and happenstance. What he finds is fraught with irony and underscored by the notion that what happens to one must and does, in fact, effect another sooner or later, for better or worse. All of which serves to point out that no man stands alone; in the end, bills come due and must be paid. We must all face the consequences of past decisions and actions, at which time the relevance of the irrefutable symbiotic nature of Man comes so vividly into play, wherein dissimilar individuals may reap the benefits of simply being a part of the community of Humankind. Or then again, perhaps not. The story Anderson weaves is fast-paced, sometimes frantic, and thoroughly engrossing, achieving levels of emotional intensity that are at times remarkable. The quick pacing of the film belies the gradual way the story comes together to form the tangible connections derived from the intricacies of the plot. It's a dynamic piece of filmmaking, extremely well written and delivered by Anderson and his superb cast. There are a number of memorable performances here, among them Tom Cruise, who plays Frank T.J. Mackey, a self-styled guru of the "men's movement," whose teachings are anathema to feminists everywhere. It's an intense performance (for which he deservedly received an Oscar nomination), quite unlike anything he's done before, and possibly his best work since "Rain Man." Other notable performances are turned in by William H. Macy, as "Quiz Kid Donnie Smith," the once gifted youth who emerges dysfunctional in adulthood, and by John C. Reilly, as Officer Jim Kurring, a caring individual with a truly benevolent nature. But the most superlative performance of the movie is given by Philip Seymour Hoffman, as a male nurse named Phil Parma. His sensitive, subtle portrayal of this caretaker to dying man Earl Partridge (Jason Robards), is delivered with nuance and incredible depth, and provides some of the most poignant moments in the film. While taking nothing away from Cruise, who was outstanding as well, Hoffman is the one who should have been nominated, moreover, should have won, the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his work here. A performance just doesn't get any better-- or more real-- than this, and it is unacceptable that it should not be recognized as such. Rounding out what is, in essence, an ensemble cast, are Philip Baker Hall (Jimmy Gator), Julianne Moore (Linda Partridge), Melinda Dillon (Rose Gator) and Melora Walters (Claudia Wilson Gator). One of the best films of 1999, "Magnolia" conveys a moral without moralizing, is rich in metaphor and altogether captivating, with an ending that may take you aback, if indeed, you haven't been paying close attention (there are at least two clues during the film, admittedly obscure, but there nevertheless). It is intense, unremittedly so, and may leave you breathless and pondering the mysteries of life; but this is filmmaking at it's best, and especially for avid movie-watchers, one that absolutely must not be missed."
My kind of romance film
Kim Ann Knight | Albany, CA United States | 07/12/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I work at one of the few theaters which had the opportunity to play the new film by writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson: Magnolia. When selling tickets and people ask me, "what is this Magnolia movie about?" I reply, "It's a story of chance and coincidence in the San Fernando Valley with a romance at its heart." This is rather vague and broad, but it is intriguing to the moviegoers. I do warn them that Tom Cruise's character, Frank T.J. Mackey, has some very graphic and harsh dialogue, and that the running time is long, but I would say that ninety percent of the audience walks out happy having seen such a beautiful film.The film follows eleven characters through one rainy day which culminates in a sequence so forceful that you feel just as physically and mentally drained as those inside the celluloid. The eleven characters all branch off from an old man dying of cancer named Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) who lays in a bed through the whole movie. He is married to Linda (Julianne Moore) and is looked after by nurse Phil Parma (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). Earl's last wish is to speak with his son, Frank (Cruise).Earl is also the executive producer of "the longest running quiz show on television: What Do Kids Know?" The TV game show is at an exciting point in its run for a new group of "Kids" led by Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman) is close to breaking the record for consecutive wins held by former quiz kid Donnie Smith (William H. Macy). Jimmy Gator (Phillip Baker Hall) is the host who is also dying of cancer. He has a wife, Rose (Melinda Dillon), and an estranged daughter of his own: Claudia (Melora Walters). Claudia is addicted to cocaine and listens to her music way too loud. Her neighbors call the cops and Officer Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly) is sent to her door and they subsequently flirt which leads to a date. It is their romance which I feel is central to the film.The eleventh character does not have nearly as much screen time as the previous ten, but is the most important character of all. He is Dixon (Emmanuel Johnson), the candy selling, ten year old "rapper" who drops clues as to what might happen in an early freestyle flow.What does happen is a painfully brilliant and heartbreaking story of love, coincidence and redemption. There are many double stories like in King Lear: the two dying fathers with estranged children; both fathers have people who work for them who love them even more than their own family; we also see the young and old versions of a child genius showing how the present parental mistreating will affect him in the future; and there is a set of designated caregivers (the cop and the nurse), who echos Lear's fool.The whole film is told through constant cross cutting between stories and interactions. For the first two thirds of the film there is always some form of music the pictures are set to, be it the score or rock songs. The director has learned a lot of his show-offy technique from Martin Scorsese and Robert Altman; he has Scorsese's eye and ear for mood setting music and Altman's grand scope and vision-a great foundation for a director. In his previous film, Boogie Nights, the director just seemed to be quoting those two, but in this present film, he has found his own style and rhythm. His ear for dialogue is great, he elicits great performances from his actors and knows how to make every minute count. A running time of 180 minutes is pretty steep but it flew right by. And if asked, I would not know where to cut the film. Paul Thomas Anderson is completely enamored with everything in this film-his story, his actors and his own filmmaking (the camera in particular).Roger Ebert refers to the movie as "operatic." I can see where he is coming from, its ambition and length are operatic and there is the incessant use of music in the background, sometimes drowning out the dialogue so we only hear phrases and have to read lips. I would refer to the film as rhapsodic, ecstatic in the act of filmmaking and storytelling, coming to peaks just short enough not to peak too early and eventually reaching the ultimate climax like a great jazz song. All this to tell us you can't really plan ahead because you don't know what will happen. It also reminds us that sometimes plans work out and you should just go with it like when Claudia kisses Jim upon returning from the bathroom and said, "I'm glad I did that, I needed to do that."I'm glad Mr. Anderson make this film. It showed me that I should remember the small things, that love isn't as hard as it may seem to find, and that I need to know somebody loves me back and I should accept their love. This may sound like the lovelorn teenager in me, but I feel it to be true. This is my kind of romance film."
I have never seen a better movie than "Magnolia"
Michael Vanier | Pasadena, CA | 12/17/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are scenes, and lines, in Magnolia that will stay with me for the rest of my life. The narrator saying periodically "And the book says, we may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us." Aimee Mann singing "Wise Up" and "Save Me". Policeman Jim Kurring saying "Sometimes people need a little help. Sometimes people need to be forgiven. And sometimes they need to go to jail. But if you can forgive someone, well, that's the tough part. What can we forgive? Tough part of the job. Tough part of walking down the street." This is the most deeply human movie I have ever experienced.
If you can appreciate that a movie can touch your heart, can be something more than just simple entertainment, and can actually say something both simple and profound about the human condition, then you will love Magnolia. It is not easy watching. It is at turns foul-mouthed, confused, chaotic, irrational, depressing, uplifting, unrealistic, too realistic, unpredictable, heavily symbolic, violent, and unflinchingly, gut-wrenchingly honest in its portrayal of damaged characters trying to make sense of the wreckage of their lives. And yet, through all of this there is a beacon of hope and redemption that shines through, and most of the characters do find the strength to carry on. Watching Magnolia is like having an entire lifetime's worth of powerful emotions crammed into a three hour movie. If you have an open mind, and an open heart, you must see this movie. I have a hard time imagining how anyone will ever be able to make a better one."
Brilliant, but less would have been more
flickjunkie | 09/17/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Magnolia is one of those films where less would have been more. In attempting to do so much, the film actually suffered from excessive brilliance. Paul Thomas Anderson gives us a powerful auteur piece that succeeds on most levels, but comes up short of its true potential.The story follows one day in the lives of nine major characters and a host of minor ones whose lives are loosely connected to one man by various threads. Anderson does inspired work, giving us deep character development for each of the nine. Many themes run through the work, but the most pervasive is that of guilt and remorse. Moreover, almost every effort at atonement was rejected or thwarted in some way, evoking great pathos and a sense of despondent fatalism. This is clearly some of the best and most thought provoking dark writing ever done.From a directorial standpoint, the film was a magnificent display of directorial virtuosity. Anderson handled scenes, actors and visual details with the flair of a maestro. The swirl of scenes from character to character, the use of the camera and music, the juxtaposition of scenes, everything was superbly done. Yet, the whole was less than the sum of the parts due to Anderson's inability to let go of elements that encumbered the film (an irony since one of the main themes of the story was about being able to let go). Michaelangelo once commented that inside every block of marble, there is a masterpiece, and the sculptor needs only cut away the right pieces. Editing is one of most excruciating tasks of an auteur since each excision discards part of his soul. However, stoical editing is the area that differentiates great writer/directors from the good ones.This film had everything necessary to be one of the truly great films of our times, but it suffered from excess. There were too many characters. The story would have lost almost nothing by eliminating Donnie (William Macy), Officer Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly) and Claudia (Melora Walters). These characters really didn't add that much to the philosophical points being made in the film and made the film unwieldy. This would have trimmed forty-five minutes to an hour from the film and turned the focus more on the relationship between Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) and his son Frank (Tom Cruise) that was the very best element of the film.Also, Anderson went overboard on the profanity. I am no prude in this regard. I believe that profanity adds realism to a film because people are frequently profane in real life. I disdain the self-righteous prigs who are offended by it. However, overuse of any device to the extent that it starts to burden the story ultimately detracts from it. Anderson crossed that line. It seemed like he was trying to set a record for frequency and volume of vulgar expletives. If all the profanity were edited out, the film would have been 30 minutes shorter and Julianne Moore would have had about five lines.Finally, the plague of the frogs taken from Chapter 8 of Exodus was ill advised, as was the chorus of song by all the major characters at their point of greatest despondency. Anderson was trying to make important points with both of these devices, but in the process, they trivialized an exceptionally powerful drama to the point of eye rolling incredulity.Anderson was so uncompromising about every detail of his artistic vision that he missed the Big Picture (pun intended). The final version that was released would have been better released later as the director's cut. If Anderson had edited the theatrical release effectively, he could have had it both ways. He could have had a commercial success, critical acclaim, and he still could have given people an opportunity to see his entire vision. As to the acting, this is probably the best ensemble performance I have ever seen. Tom Cruise was nominated for a best supporting Oscar and much as I love Michael Caine and his performance in "The Cider House Rules", this was no contest. Cruise was electrifying. This was one of his best performances ever. I also thought Jason Robards' performance was worthy of supporting actor nomination. He was tremendous as the dying patriarch. The rest of the cast was phenomenal without exception.It is easy to understand why this film failed at the box office (at $23M, it grossed $14M less than its $37M budget). It was far too abstruse, intense, dark, philosophical and wry (not to mention lengthy) to have popular appeal. Of those who actually saw it, most either loved it or hated it. I must admit to feeling both emotions. I loved its genius but I hated that its final form didn't do that genius justice. Thus, I rated it an 8/10. It will undoubtedly become a cult classic rather than the true classic it could have been."