Magnolia (1999) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

16 years later, Magnolia remains a towering classic. A one of a kind emotional epic that boldly defies conventions.

 

 

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

 

This is the kind of movie I live to see. A film brave enough to break free from conventional storytelling and emerge as something wholly unique. Love it or hate it, you have never seen a film like this.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia tells a tale of chance through a series of interconnected stories taking place over the course of a day. An unnamed narrator follows this tale, and opens the film with vignettes of incredible coincidence.

“These strange things happen all the time”, he playfully muses as the film springs to life. Be warned, this may sound like a mess.

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We have the story of a dying father clinging on to life, filled with regret. A caretaker trying to fulfill his final wishes. His trophy wife spiraling out of control. Then we have a former quiz kid winner, who has grown up to become a loser. A boy genius competing in a game show, pressured by his abusive father. The host of said game show looking to mend his relationship with his estranged daughter. A misogynistic motivational speaker, and finally a cop trying to do the right thing.

“And this will all make sense in the end.”

Magnolia boasts one of the largest ensemble casts put on film, yet astonishingly there are no small parts. Nothing is insignificant as the seemingly disparate pieces slowly come together, revealing parallels and secrets within the separate story lines. Its the type of foolhardy ambition that reckless young filmmakers possess, except none of them are able to stick the landing as well as Magnolia does.

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This is a rare film that has the magic to fully immerse you into its world. Throughout its 188 minutes run time, there was not a single moment where i was not completely invested in the plight of these characters. The performances are beautifully unrestrained, with every actor reaching deep to bring their characters to life with gut wrenching pathos. The denizens populating Magnolia genuinely feel like people, and P.T Anderson’s directs with such aplomb and flair that you never feel lost despite the mammoth scale of the story. The result is a brilliantly operatic drama, lush with human emotion and unabashedly confident in its execution.

There is truly nothing quite like Magnolia, and it remains just as potent and powerful today as it was 16 years ago. Many have tried to imitate its style and ambition but none have come close to it. Perhaps its the tremendous acting. Tom Cruise’s magnetic turn as the sleazeball Frank T.J Mackey is a marvel to behold, as is the rest of the cast in pulling off the numerous emotional breakdowns within the film. Or perhaps its the sheer scale and ambition gifted to the intertwined stories.

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The real secret to Magnolia’s staying power in my opinion, is P.T Anderson’s love for his characters. While they all go through the ringer, there is no real malice to their predicaments. The world they inhabit feels palpable and real, with no overarching villains or forced conflicts. Merely people struggling with very dark, personal issues. Some struggle with hate in their hearts, while others hold on to hope. And is that hope rewarded? Only one way to find out, so i implore you to see this classic. It is an experience well worth the time.

“Things fall down. People look up. And when it rains, it pours.”
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