Apr 4, 2012

Magnolia [1999]

Magnolia, the 1999 drama written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson is a special kind of movie; it's fast, intricate, with many characters and storylines. It's complicated, but if you think about it, it's also fucking brilliant.

Apparently Anderson wrote the script in a 2 weeks vacation spent the William H.Macy's Vermont cabin, and was inspired by Aimee Mann's music. Described as an epic mosaic, the script unleashes a huge amount of consequences and interrelated storylines that I am not even going try to explain.

PTA said the idea developed from Claudia, one of my favorite characters from this movie; her and Jim's storyline was so good, sweet and romantic, but still real and sad. At the beginning you have the urge to characterize her simply as a drugged-out-of-her mind woman, but as time passes and she starts interacting with more people, people who you see in other situations in other parts of the movie, you understand her. Jim was a very good addition and I thought his naive behavior was endearing and surprisingly fitting with Claudia.

One of the film's main attributes are, of course, the characters. Claudia is just the starting point, but I was also impressed by Tom Cruise, who was surprisingly good as a superstar lecturer on how to conquer women- seeing him on that stage, shouting "Tame the cunt" reminded me so much of Eli Sunday, from There will be blood, maybe just because I saw the movie recently, but also because I could easily see the fanaticism, the craziness and devotion both offer to their jobs and beliefs- it was a full throttle performance. Mister Cruise was crazy good and that crying scene just proved me that he is indeed, a great actor, no matter his attitude, appearance or choice of roles. Other standouts include William H.Macy, as the former genius kid who won the TV contest, but now struggles with loneliness, and Jason Robards, as Earl Partridge.

I fell in love with Stanley and his genius storyline (the peeing scene was something else and Luis Guzman is always fun to watch), plus Phillip Seymour Hoffman's presence improved it in many ways, but I honestly didn't see any point on Julianne's character being there- it was pretty useless and the movie would still have been perfectly fine without her. [p.s. She looks so much like my sister, it creeps me out every time I see her on screen- my mind goes directly to R, my older sibling]

From a filmmaking point of view, it was interesting to watch: it had very fast, dynamic shots, and it did remind me of Boogie Nights in some aspects. The music score was very good and I liked the fact that it almost always gave me the impression something big was about to happen- it certainly maintained my attention throughout the movie. Considering Anderson's interest in Aimee Mann, of course the film featured a couple of her songs, one of which is sung by all the characters- something that I found to be particularly weird and a little out of place; what is this? an REM video?

Anyway, that wasn't the most shocking part of the movie; actually nothing was until that moment where [SPOILER ALERT] the frogs started pouring down from the sky- it was a WTF moment and I didn't understand it at the beginning- I honestly had to read IMDb trivia to get it. Apparently PTA was obsessed with a quote from the Bible, Exodus 8:2, which is heavily featured in the movie, in one way or another- it reads: "And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs."

If the first 2/3 of the movie involved a lot of action and intertwined situations, the last part was mostly based on speeches and tying up loose ends. I mostly liked the way PTA provided closure for the people, and the Frankie Mackie- Earl Partridge scene was particularly emotional.

"Magnolia" is not an easy movie to decipher or talk about- it has so many characters, storylines and themes, it touches upon subjects like regret, lost, loneliness, love- it tries too hard in so many directions, and as expected, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But in the end this film is special- I, personally, love movies that stand out, that surprise or shock me, and this succeeded in doing so.

"Magnolia" is a very interesting movie, different from your average drama, that you can't judge or give a final mark after the credits roll- you need to think about it, to process it. If you saw it, let me know what you think about it in the comments; if you didn't, what are you waiting for?


  1. I completely agree that this is a film that needs to stew and be given an immense amount of dedicated thought to fully appreciate it. Like a fine wine, Magnolia only gets better with time.

    Lovely review of a lovely, honest film. Love everything about Magnolia.

    ...but it did happen...

  2. This is definitely one of my favorite films. In fact, my favorite part is when Luis Guzman talks back to the kid at the end of the game as if the kid had just lost. I love Luis Guzman.

  3. The frog thing apparantly can happen when a tornato occures, it picks frogs up and then they rain from the sky. I think that scene is what makes the movie so memorable, I was shocked too when I saw it for the first time. The acting in this film is really superb, I think it's a little better executed than Boogie Nights, but it's still my favorite movie from Anderson. Excellent review!

  4. I can't believe I still have not seen this film yet but considering how so many bloggers love it, I have to get to it. I had no idea Luis Guzman is in this, I LOVE that guy. Ok, now I BETTER get to seeing this soon. Thanks Andina.

  5. @Alex: Thanks, I am glad you liked it! It seems to get better with time and I am sure it features in a lot of top 100 of movie lovers all around the world!
    @Steven: Luis Guzman is hilarious. Do you know the remix of Barbra Streisand- the song, with Luis Guzman? check it on youtube!
    @Sati: Yeah, I heard the thing about the frigs, interesting! And, yes, it is better executed than Boogie Nights, but then again, this is a much darker, serious drama than BN!
    @Ruth: You should see it soon, and again, I mention the remix video of Barbra Streisand with Luis Guzman...it's great!

  6. It's a very good film that probably has Tom Cruise's best performance ever. Some of the religious stuff got on my nerves after awhile but despite that, I thought each and every story-line here was as interesting and original as the last one before it. Good review Diana.

  7. @Dan: Thanks, glad you liked it! I agree, one of Tom Cruise's best roles.

  8. Fantastic review of the film, I need to watch it again after reading your post.

    1. Thanks Vinnieh for the comment and for dropping by!