the fresh films reviews

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Magnolia (1999)

Paul Thomas Anderson




188 minutes

JoAnne Sellar
Daniel Lupi
Paul Thomas Anderson
Paul Thomas Anderson

Cast includes:

Stanley Spector Jeremy Blackman
Frank Mackey Tom Cruise ˝
Rose Gator Melinda Dillon
Gwenovier April Grace ˝
Luis Guzmán Luis Guzmán ˝
Jimmy Gator Philip Baker Hall
Phil Parma Philip Seymour Hoffman ˝
Quiz Kid Donnie Smith William H. Macy ˝
Solomon Solomon Alfred Molina ˝
Linda Partridge Julianne Moore ˝
Jim Kurring John C. Reilly
Earl Partridge Jason Robards ˝
Claudia Wilson Gator Melora Walters
WDKK Show Director's Assistant William Mapother -



Paul Thomas Anderson demonstrated with his first two films, Hard Eight and Boogie Nights, that he knows how to write about people and expose their shames. The success of those two movies gave him carte blanche from New Line Cinema for his third movie, and Anderson certainly upped the ante with Magnolia. The film is formally ambitious to the point of pretentiousness – this cleary was to be Anderson's Sgt. Pepper – and you feel rather pampered as the movie spins you into its multitude of star-studded storylines with a high promise of canny interconnection. It's all quite promising until the film reaches its overlong, plodding middle-part where Anderson incessantly claims to be building up to some sort of climax which isn't there. He overloads his scenes with Jon Brion's inelegant, wearisome score and cuts erratically between his storylines without dexterity. There is a reason why films usually clock in at between 90 and 120 minutes, and if you plan to surpass this, you should have more to say and lay it out more elegantly than what Anderson does here.

What is both a pity and leniency, is that there is at least one very good movie buried in this formal mess. The storyline involving Jason Robards, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore and Tom Cruise could and would have made a superb, poignant drama. As a matter of fact, you could just recut and rescore the whole thing, and you'd probably have a hit and and an award-winner on your hands. Instead, Anderson gets too hung up on weaving his storylines together in a somewhat desperate attempt at boasting his skill. And when that ending (eventually) comes, exposing some lazy and uninspired writing, you'd be hard-pressed to not call the project a failure. What remains is another obvious exhibit of Anderson's potential as a writer and director of human drama. And for what it's worth, too much ambition is always more laudable than too little or nothing at all. The acting is the film's standout asset, including Cruise's career best performance, strong, emotional turns from Hoffman and Moore, and a stripped down Robards in his last screen appearance.

Re-reviewed: Copyright © 23.10.2021 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang
Original review: Copyright © 21.04.2000 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang