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    "Magnolia" blossoms

    Multiple characters' stories unfold into the magnificent ensemble piece "Magnolia" by the creator of "Boogie Nights."


    Anyone unconvinced of Paul Thomas Anderson's talent following the success of "Boogie Nights" (the film which put Mark Wahlberg's "talent" on the map) need look no further than his latest film, "Magnolia".

    Written and directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson.
    Cast: Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly, Melora Walters, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Philip Baker Hall, Jason Robards.
    Cinematography: Robert Elswit.

    Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
    "Magnolia" stars Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly, Melora Walters, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Philip Baker Hall, all of whom appeared in "Boogie Nights". Utilizing a stock company of repertory regulars is an approach employed by the likes of Robert Altman and Alan Rudolph, and it works well for Anderson too; every single member of his ensemble delights in profound and significant ways. "Magnolia" also stars Jason Robards and Tom Cruise, and they complement Anderson's veterans extremely nicely.

    In a story of intersecting lives and emotions, Robards is bedridden and dying of cancer, Moore is his emotional wreck of a trophy wife who's finally learned to love him, and Hoffman is his sensitive and beleaguered nurse. Cruise, in a dynamic performance, plays a misogynistic motivational speaker with turbulent ties to the dying man. In parallel story threads, Reilly is a San Fernando Valley cop who falls for the coke-addicted daughter (Walters) of a TV game show host (Hall), and Macy appears as a former game-show prodigy with love in his heart for a tinsel-toothed barkeep.

    As you can probably tell from these brief character descriptions, "Magnolia" is structured more as a series of vignettes than a traditional central narrative, yet many of these disparate storylines come together very untraditionally in the film's breathtaking final act. The film is a little over three hours long but you'd never know it; the minutes simply fly by.

    Anderson, some say an upstart of a filmmaker at 29, wrote as well as directed "Magnolia," yet the film plays out with the sophistication and maturity of someone beyond his years. Since "Magnolia" was supposedly inspired by a lyric from an Aimee Mann song, it makes perfect sense that Anderson would employ the talents of the former 'Til Tuesday lead singer, whose melancholy refrains are featured prominently on the film's soundtrack. That soundtrack also features impressive music by Jon Brion (Anderson's "Hard Eight"). His insistent score is especially effective in its ability to heighten passions, pulling the characters together with its urgent layering across scenes.

    In addition to drawing superlative performances from his cast, Anderson takes two major risks in the film, sequences so against the grain you'd expect some conventional bigwig to have exorcised them from the final cut. The fact that they meld perfectly with the escalating human drama only further substantiates Anderson's skill as a writer and director of unique and remarkable vision.

    Unfortunately, "Magnolia" was released in Philadelphia one week too late to be included on my list of outstanding films of 1999, but even this early in the new year I can guarantee it will make it onto my best films of 2000 list. As a candidate for the best film of the year, it's gonna be a tough act to beat.

    JANUARY 12, 2000

    Reader comments on Magnolia:

  • Magnolia   from chris saunders, Aug 31, 2000
  • Re: Magnolia -- spoiler   from Beth, Sep 3, 2000
  • Re: Magnolia -- spoiler   from Jennifer in FL, Sep 4, 2000
  • Re: Magnolia -- spoiler   from cdd68, Sep 5, 2000
  • Re: Magnolia -- spoiler   from CJ, Mar 27, 2001
  • Re: Magnolia -- spoiler   from Jana, Sep 7, 2000
  • Re: Magnolia -- spoiler   from Matt, Sep 10, 2000
  • Re: Magnolia — spoiler   from rowan, Oct 5, 2000
  • Re: Magnolia ¸ spoiler   from Bob, Oct 29, 2000
  • Re: Magnolia -- spoiler   from yo mama, Jul 11, 2001
  • Frogs for real   from Ken Webster, Jan 20, 2002
  • Re: Magnolia   from Francesco, Oct 24, 2000
  • Frogs, Children : EXPLAINED!!!!   from Jeff, Oct 31, 2000
  • Re: Frogs, Children : EXPLAINED!!!!   from tracy, Nov 20, 2000
  • Re: Frogs, Children : EXPLAINED!!!!   from bob weottababyitsaboy, Aug 27, 2001
  • Re: Frogs, Children : EXPLAINED!!!!   from jenny, Mar 14, 2001
  • Re: Frogs, Children : EXPLAINED!!!!   from T.J., Mar 29, 2001
  • Re: Frogs, Children : EXPLAINED!!!!   from Crystal, Apr 12, 2001
  • Re: Frogs, Children : EXPLAINED!!!!   from Tashtigo707, Jun 19, 2002
  • Re: Frogs, Children : EXPLAINED!!!!   from AD MacDonald, Mar 5, 2005
  • Re: Magnolia   from pc, Feb 6, 2001
  • frogs?   from Nat, Jan 14, 2001
  • Re: frogs?   from Brian, Apr 15, 2001
  • Exodus:Magnolia   from Jason Knox, Feb 25, 2004
  • Film   from Brian Jones, Jan 20, 2001
  • Re: Film   from bob weottababyitsaboy, Aug 27, 2001
  • Claudia Magnolia   from Rach, Feb 4, 2001
  • [no subject]   from , Apr 29, 2001
  • Great Film   from Thunder_Moose, Nov 27, 2001
  • Person in the Cupboard?   from Aaron, Jul 31, 2005
  • Magnolia - comment   from CS, Nov 25, 2004

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