Movie Review: Magnolia

Tom Cruise as Frank T.J. Mackey, looking solemnly down upon his father.

Tom Cruise as Frank T.J. Mackey, looking solemnly down upon his father.

1999
Magnolia
Directed by P.T. Anderson

A powerful and often painfully misinterpreted film

At first sight this film looks painfully boring. With a run time of over 3 hours, how could this possibly hold anyones attention? When I first saw the film, I didn’t think much of it, but after repeated viewings, this has become one of my favourite films of all time.

Set in the San Fernando Valley, the film evolves from a story of chance to a consequence of child cruelty. Some regret their mistakes, while others choose to not acknowledge them. John C. Reilly and Philip Seymour Hoffman, while not being directly affected by child cruelty view the problems that the characters have and attempt to help the others reconcile. The film, while funny at times, has a dark melancholy centre in which is one of the most powerful of any film I’ve ever seen. References to Exodus are made dozens of times  to emphasize the ending, which is often very, very misunderstood.

The chilling score heightens the intensity of the scenes, all of which are somehow in someway connected. All of the characters want happiness but simply do not know how to find the path. From Stanley Spector and Jimmy Gator (Jeremy Blackman and Philip Baker Hall, respectively) being unable to perform on the game show for physical and emotional reasons, to Tom Cruise’s famous monologue to his dying father, Magnolia grips our emotional side and really takes hold of our attention. Our craving to understand more and more about the characters becomes more intense the further you go through the movie. It’s this feeling that makes Magnolia such a powerful and important film.

Magnolia, which is one of the most creative and innovative movies of the 90’s, is a film that everyone should see. Featuring Oscar-worthy performances from the majority of the characters, this is a very unappreciated movie that deserves so much more recognition than it has received. While the Renoir-style camera movements, style, conclusion and time may make you dislike the film, if you are interested from the beginning, you will not be disappointed.

Recommendations: Fight Club, Amores Perros

– s.

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