Magnolia


Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Written by:Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Tom Cruise, Philip Baker Hall, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Jason Robards, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly
Released: March 9, 2000
Grade: A+

As filmmakers become increasingly obsessed with the bottom dollar, studios are becoming more and more conservative as they try to predict what the public want.  Scream is the perfect example.  It was a bold, unique project at the time but spawned a number of “copycat” films as they know they’ll pull in the green bucks.  We go, watch and enjoy these films but isn’t it time that someone put something up there that has no precedence?

Paul Thomas Anderson is fast becoming a Hollywood heavyweight through his independence.  His first film, Sydney, was chopped up by studio execs and released under the title, Hard Eight.  Not to let this happen again, he struck a deal with New Line Cinema for total control of his follow up, Boogie Nights which went on to earn 3 Academy Award nominations.

Magnolia is Anderson’s third film and it is as different from anything you will have seen before.  It is amazing to see a film for what it is rather than one that is manipulated to satisfy.

“There is the story of a boy genius, the game show host, and the ex-boy genius.  There is the story of the dying man, his lost son, the dying man’s wife, and the caretaker. And there is the story of a mother, the daughter, and the police officer in love.  And this will all make sense in the end.”

The above words come from the film’s trailer, which accurately describe the many characters and stories that make up Magnolia without giving anything away.  I’ve stated before how movies are more attractive when there is more than one storyline.  Here, several stories are interwoven and it’s like channel surfing - you’re changing storylines every minute to maintain interest.

The credited cast of Magnolia exceeds 100 and unusually, there is no leading role.  Anderson has produced the most faultless ensemble.  Cruise, Moore, Macy, Reilly, Hoffman, Hall, Robards - brilliant!

Paul Thomas Anderson’s script and direction are inspirational.  His use of a single camera unedited for minutes at a time, his use of varying the music to the extent that it overrides the dialogue and his quick pace make this 3 hour marathon seem considerably shorter.

Speaking specifically of the music, Anderson has said that he’s always been a fan of Aimee Mann (who sings 9 songs during the film) and based several of the stories on her songs.  He took the song and worked backwards to create the story.  Perhaps that what makes it all seem so new.

I can’t spoil anything when it comes to Magnolia because it is pure art from a cinematic genius.  It takes several viewing to appreciate just how deep it goes and is open to wide interpretation but a religious tone is evident for those who pay close attention.

Is there a point to it all?  Who knows?  It’s nothing more that a bunch of stories and strange coincidences - stuff you think only happens in the movies...

Remember, “it did happen”.