Connect with us

Movie Reviews




Released: 24th March 2000 (UK)

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Stars: Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore

Certificate: 18

Reviewer: William McAbee

Anyone that knows or follows me knows that I am a huge Paul Thomas Anderson fan. Ever since I saw There Will Be Blood back in 2007 I have been captured and in awe of his cinematic vision and power behind the camera. My father thought I was crazy for enjoying There Will Be Blood and even to this day says it is awful but I know deep in my heart his is in complete denial. So immediately I became a fan and made it my mission to catch the rest of his films. As the years past I eventually saw every single one of his works from Hard Eight to Boogie NightMagnolia to Punch-Drunk Love I have adored and loved each one of his films. I have never taken the time to sit and write my opinions on his films….until now! So begins my marathon of reviewing each one of Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterful work. I will start with Magnolia and from there go to Boogie Nights, Punch-Drunk Love, Hard Eight, and finish with his masterpiece There Will Be Blood. This should be a wonderful experience for myself and hopefully for you readers out there where ever you are. So what did I think of Paul Thomas Andreson and Magnolia (if you can’t already tell), read on to find out!

Magnolia is the story about one day in Los Angeles follow multiple unique individuals and the connections they all have with each other. The main story follows two old men who are dying. Philip Baker Hall stars as Jimmy Gator a game show host who has been diagnosed with cancer. The films follows his attempt to reconnect with his drug addicted daughter (Melora Walters) and host his show with child prodigy Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman). Jason Robards stars as Earl Partridge, an old man dying with cancer, trying to reconnect with his long lost song Frank T.J. Mackey, author and motivational coach for men on how to “tame” women. The film also features John C. Reilly, a officer in search for love; Philip Seymour Hoffman, a lonely and sympathetic nurse; and Julianne Moore; young wife of Earl Partridge filled with guilt. The films flows the stories of these individuals together as they all search for love, happiness, and meaning in a world full of coincidences.

Magnolia stills stands to this day one of the most impressive pieces of films that I have ever seen. When I saw this film, I was awe struck at the complete perfection that this film holds. I found that everything was flawless and it blew my mind. I have seen it about six times now and each time I learn something new and it impacts me different way. It is literally, in my opinion, everything that you could want from a film. The story is unbelievably impressive, the camerawork masterful, editing flawless, acting perfection, and thematically deep and meaningful. It is a thoughtful, well thought out piece of work from Paul Thomas Anderson and as he says “I really feel…That Magnolia is, for better or worse, the best movie I’ll ever make.”

The first part of the film that stands out to me is the great direction from Paul Thomas Anderson. After seeing Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood, I was particularly looking out for his style to show up here; and boy it did. There are so many things that I like about Anderson’s style that really make his films stand out from the rest. The first and my personal favorite part is the use of long, powerful takes. Showing the influence from Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas and Mikhail Kalatozov’s work like in I Am Cuba, Anderson shows off his mastery of the long shot in two ways. The first is the traditional long shot take like when Stanley enters the studio to go on the game show, going up an elevator and lasting over 2 minutes. He also does this through the slow zoom in. Used frequently throughout Magnolia, Paul Thomas Anderson successfully pulls the audience in emotionally and slowly into the characters. Though while these zoom ins are broken apart through editing, we still feel ourselves being drawn into each individual characters and the story that surrounds them. The best example stands at the “Wise Up” song right before the last 45 minutes of the film. Paul Thomas Anderson combines his slow zoom in with the song to pull us in, give us time to reflect before the powerful climax of and once again shows us the commonalities of all the characters.

Though this is not the most impressive part of the whole film. The overall feelings that Anderson presents in his style make the movie feel “alive” unlike any movie before it. The fluid camera work and editing combined from start to end seamlessly blend together. From beginning to end this film never hits a low point, like a bullet it doesn’t stop moving until it comes to its end. The film quickly cuts between scenes and characters so fast that we almost have no time to take in each story. Thankfully we do, it reflects the connections between all the stories and constantly reminds us how these stories are connected.

While directing is Paul Thomas Anderson’s impressive feature is directing, it really is his storytelling that packs a powerful punch in Magnolia. Anderson takes nine individual, unique characters and pulling them all together under coincidence and even reminds us in the films that “it’s something that happens.” Conquering themes of being trapped, connections through loneliness, cancer, guilt, fathers failing their children, child abuse, regret, and most importantly “we may be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.” There was also a great religious subtext riding through out the film dealing with the power of the “Father” over his children and without ruining the ending (which is extraordinary and I will talk about later) the importance of Exodus 8:2 with the whole film. A brilliant film also revisits and repeats scenes throughout the film to allow the audience to reflect on the differences between the first time we saw it and the second time. For example, there is a vast difference between Mackey’s “dog” breathing in the interview and then by Earl Partridge’s bed. The difference between when Donnie firsts opens the safe and then reopening it to put the money back.  We also see this in Officer Jim’s monologue at the beginning of the film compared to monologue after he get his date with Claudia. Guilt and regret play a big theme here which intertwines with the theme of one’s past. Whether it is people who cheated on their lovers or when someone’s parents ruined their lives like with Donnie the Whiz Kid. The interesting case comes with Earl and Linda Partridge, people who are completely unaware of each other’s infidelity against each other, are still completely in love with each other but once again unaware; their faults bring them together.

That’s really what this film is about, the connections we have other people, what brings us together with other people, that we are not even aware of. There are dozens of these connections throughout the film and I will try my best to point out a few of my favorites. When Stanley sings the song from “Carmen” talking about rebellious love that refuses you, this relates to Donnie who is madly in love with the bartender who will not love him back. As Donnie says “I have a lot of love to give” just Officer Jim does as he searches for love in his life and hopes to give it to Claudia. The obvious connection of Donnie and Stanley, Stanley representing the roots of the Father issue and Donnie representing where Stanley is headed if things don’t change. When Donnie mentions that kids should be confused with angels, Dixon becomes an angel for Linda by calling 911 to save her life. Earl Partridge and Jimmy Gator are both dying of cancer, have cheated on their wives, and emotionally damaged her kids. I could continue on and on about the connections in this film but I hope you are getting the point. Paul Thomas Anderson paints a picture that shows us the common connections we all have with people we don’t even know. People all over the world deal with the same problems and issues, people we will never even meet. Through this film we see there is a certain beauty in that, an over encompassing feeling of togetherness through it all.

Still, like with most of Paul Thomas Anderson’s work, the film would not be anywhere near perfection with the amazing performances from his stellar cast. Every single cast member in this film is phenomenal and give some of the best performances of their careers. Philip Baker Hall is heartbreaking and horrifying, Philip Seymour Hoffman is subtle and emotional, and Melora Walters is gripping and gut wrenching. Those aren’t even the best roles even and I could spend a long time breaking down each one and their incredible performances but I want to point out my favorites. Julianne Moore’s role has slowly grown on me the more I have watched this film. She brings a depth and emotion to Linda like no other, showing us the pain of regret and guilt that can take over some one. Her character doesn’t even know who she is or what she wants, her performance is powerful and will grow on you as it did me. Two roles surprised me in the film of Officer Jim by John. C. Reilly, who brought a lot of emotion to the role and brings growth to the film, and William H. Macy, whose gripping scenes will take the audience by surprise and gain your sympathy by the end.

Though there is one man who dominates everything he touches in this film. I hate to reflect on just one actor in a film that is flooded with outstanding performances but I personally believe this is some of the best acting ever. Tom Cruise knocks his role as T.J. Mackey out of the park multiple times. From the moment he enters the screen during the theme from 2001 A Space Odyssey to the scenes by his father’s death bed, Cruise is impeccable and undeniably incredible. His persona during the motivational speeches soaks you in like a sponge, you may not agree with what he is saying but you want feel like your sitting in the audience yourself and need to cheer him on; he seducing you. Then his performance peaks during the interview as he is “silently judging” the interviewer and holds a dead cold stare right into the camera that will send a chill down your spine. Lastly, when he finally confronts his dad, he lets it all out and the flood gates open. He rides the emotions and pushes us to the edge as we watch him. It truly is an astonishing performances and as I run out of synonyms for incredible I close. It is a must see performance in a must see movie. You will regret never seeing it.

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS. So if you have seen the film then you know that I must talk about the frogs. I think this is the make it or break it point for most viewers and I know I loved it. Its extremism reminds me of Kurosawa’s rain scenes and the religious/thematic impact is effective. It represents the “exodus” (get it? remember Exodus 8:2) of many characters problems. Stanley is finally confronting his father and things will change. Claudia is getting help from her mother while Jim is finally taking charge of what he wants by being there to help Claudia. Jimmy Gator is saved from suicide and will live another day. Donnie is able to admit his faults and will work on improving his life. Mainly the frogs are a wake up call for the characters, it is the might force that becomes a major slap in the face. Lastly it makes us laugh, through all the complicated and over the top things that these characters have gone through, they make sense when compared to frogs falling from the sky. Ultimately, as Paul Thomas Anderson points out in the film, this does happen because in fact there are real life reports of frogs falling from the sky!

So what do I think about this film? You should know by now. I love it and thinks its a marvel to watch no matter how many times I have seen it. The editing is great and impeccably pulls together the multiple story lines flawlessly. The soundtrack is a wonder to listen to and accompanies the film well, which has somewhat to do that Paul Thomas Anderson built the story from Aimee Mann’s music. The direction, story, and acting are what carry this film to such a height of wonder that it is great to watch. Anderson is trying to say that even the ridiculous happens. As the narrator points out, you may not believe it because its in a movie, but he pleas that this stuff happens every day. I highly suggest you watch it and enjoy it. Now fair warning it is not a film for everyone, as are a lot of films I love. BUT if you are a fan of film and a lover of movies, I would be highly surprised if you do not enjoy it. Sit back and watch one of the best cinematic experiences you can enjoy.

Hello! I am William McAbee. I do my fair share of reviews from time to time and I tweet like there is no tomorrow! I work currently as a video editor and producer.

Just For You