Magnolia (1999)

magnolia poster 1999 movie
10 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great visuals, great acting, interesting story

People can be turned off by the link and less than promised connecting story

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Magnolia

Studio:  New Line Cinema

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  December 25, 1999

MPAA Rating:  R



Let’s get this party going!

Claudia Gator (Melora Walters) is a drug user and the estranged daughter of game show host Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall).  Jimmy has cancer and learns that he doesn’t have long to live while his wife Rose (Melinda Dillon) questions why Claudia no longer speaks to him.  Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman) is on the verge of setting the What Do Kids Know record and feels unloved by his father Rick (Michael Bowen).  Jimmy’s show is produced by Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) who is also dying of cancer as his wife Linda (Julianne Moore) struggles and his caregiver Phil Parma (Philip Seymour Hoffman) tries to get him in touch with his estranged womanizing son Frank T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise).  “Quiz Kid” Donnie Smith (William H. Macy) is the former big winner of What Do Kids Know and contemplating breaking the law to get the oral surgery he desires to find love.  Officer Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly) is alone on the streets of Los Angeles and looking for direction…all of them will come together in a strange event that could change their lives forever.


I’m silently judging you

Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Magnolia was a very polarizing film.  A follow-up to Anderson’s film Boogie Nights in 1997, the movie was hailed by many and criticized by many for its interconnecting story and length.  The film was nominated for three Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor (Tom Cruise), Best Original Screenplay, and Best Original Song (“Save Me”—Aimee Mann).

I love Magnolia.  I liked Hard Eight and I loved Boogie Nights and at this point, Anderson showed no weakness.  Magnolia was a giant film to attempt, and Anderson took an approach very similar to Robert Altman (Nashville was one of the films Anderson used as a tone setter for the movie).  In style, look, writing, and acting Magnolia is top notch.


Hey Brad… love me!

The ensemble cast is great together.  Anderson gets great results from actors and this is a great example.  Some of the actors were new (like Jeremy Blackman) and others were old vets (like Jason Robards), but the actors still are at their best.  Robards (who was actually dying) seems so real in his role…but Anderson did receive some criticism for his rambling monologue’s length.  Tom Cruise really soared as the sex-instructor of Seduce and Destroy…I always through some of his behavior in Magnolia’s interview could be seen in his Oprah interview…It was a guy trying too hard in Magnolia and he was trying too hard on Oprah.  The only actor I feel looks a little lost is Julianne Moore who doesn’t look like she knows what to do with her character.  Other actors with smaller roles include Luis Guzman, Patton Oswald, Thomas Jane (as the young Jimmy Gator in pictures), Mary Lynn Rajskub (who later appeared in Punch-Drunk Love and is the voice of Frank’s secretary), Robert Downey Sr., April Grace, Neil Flynn, Felicity Huffman, Michael Murphy, William Mapother, and Alfred Molina.  Orlando Jones as the Worm and Emmanuel Johnson as Dixon (the rapping kid) had a much larger roles which were cut down.


So…I’ve done some bad stuff…

Anderson’s style is great.  His framing his delivery is perfect and the movie is all set to Aimee Mann’s sad lyrical music (lending also to the idea that Claudia and Jim are the central characters of the story since Claudia is the one obsessed with Mann’s work within the film).  The ideas of what can be forgiven, the relationship between fathers and sons (or parents and their children), and what children know lace the film.  Plus 82 (or 8:2) which of course relates to the film’s climax.  The look and storytelling go hand-in-hand…even the falling frogs.


This happens

This leads to the problem of the film that many have with it, and I even must admit that it is problematic.  The stories set up in the beginning of the film have just insane coincident and it all comes together…here the stories come together, but not in a manner that is like the urban legend story read by the narrator (Ricky Jay who also has a role).  With a long movie, most expected more closure and a wrapped up story as presented by the short tales.

Despite this, Magnolia is great to look at and great to watch.  It has almost gone down as one of those jokey art movies, and I must admit there are aspects of the story I can’t unravel.  I have a hard time with the quick debate between Macy and Henry Gibson on children and innocence. What is the role of Dixon and Stanley in the whole event?  The answers might not even exist but Magnolia is still a fun film to watch and decipher.  Paul Thomas Anderson followed Magnolia with Punch-Drunk Love in 2002.


Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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