February 23rd, 2000


by Merrill Matthews • in Films


“Three hours?” “My ass was asleep the whole time.” “It’s too depressing.” “What’s up with the end?”

(Actual comments from people leaving movie theatres after seeing “Magnolia“.)

I have dubbed myself a “Magnolia” fanatic. I have seen this film FOUR times. “Magnolia” is a brilliant film. Along with “American Beauty“, “Fight Club” and “Dogma“, “Magnolia” is the best that 1999 has offered the movie goer. It takes risks and it is not afraid to show the vulnerability that lies within all of us. (Yes, folks, even “Fight Club” has its vulnerable side.)

Magnolia is a film that makes the viewer ask questions about what is going on — which is the best compliment any film could ask for. It is unpredictable, depressing, melodramatic at times, unbelievable…yet completely mesmerizing and brilliant on every level.

You won’t see me explaining the plot here. But I will say that it is like nothing you have EVER seen before. I will also say that it’s about a day in the lives of nine characters. Themes? You got a whole bag of them. Children and Love are the big ones. Alienation and Lost Youth are others.

It’s not often that you have a film where the entire cast is perfect. Magnolia’s cast is an example of actors who are unafraid and willing to go the emotional distance. Watch as their walls come tumbling down. Each actor is wonderful in his or her part. Don’t just see this movie for Tom Cruise. (Note: If he doesn’t win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, it will prove that the Academy is insane.) See this film for the ensemble. They are one unit, everyone works together. No one should be singled out.

And see it for the music! Aimee Mann’s songs play a huge role in this film — much like Simon and Garfunkel did with “The Graduate”. Her songs create another terrain for these characters to explore.

In closing, I will say that Paul Thomas Anderson, the director, is a genius. All is forgiven for what I didn’t enjoy in Boogie Nights.

Yes, Magnolia is three hours long. But it flew by me, even during my fourth viewing.

No, my ass wasn’t asleep; and yes, it was depressing — in the most poignant and empathetic way possible.

And what is up with the end?? Hee! That’s for you to decide…


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