Prayer Focus
Movie Review


MPAA Rating: R for strong language, drug use, sexuality and some violence.

Reviewed by: Dan Revill

Extremely Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
3 hr. 8 min.
Year of Release:
Poster, Magnolia. Copyrighted.
Jason Robards in Magnolia. Photo copyrighted.
Scene from Magnolia. Photo copyrighted.

Starring: Jason Robards, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Michael Bowen, Tom Cruise | Director: Paul Thomas Anderson | Producers: Paul Thomas Anderson, Joanne Sellar | Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson | Distributed by: New Line Cinema

“Magnolia” is a different kind of a movie. It’s true that it’s not for everyone. In fact, I would say that a better half of the population (not just Christians) would hate this movie. As for me, I fell in love with this flower called “Magnolia.”

“And the book says that we may be through with the past but the past ain’t through with us.” So says Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall) during his game show. The story of “Magnolia” is, in fact, a few intertwining stories. There is the dying father (Jason Robards), his lost son (Tom Cruise), his trophy wife (Julianne Moore) and the caretaker (Philip Seymour Hoffman). There is the story of the game show host (Hall) and the boy genius (Jeremy Blackman). Then there is the story of the police officer (John C. Reilly) and the game show host’s lost daughter (Melora Walters). Plus, there is the story of the former boy genius (William H. Macy). There are a couple other main characters in the story that also figure into these subplots but in the end this movie is about the chances and coincidences that shape our lives.

It is a story of forgiveness and how the past can catch up to you.

There is more than enough offensive material. Foul language is pretty heavy in the first hour of the film. It does tame down towards the end. There are two scenes of seconds-long sexuality. Frank Mackey (Cruise) is a guru in the Search and Destroy dating ritual and he spurts quite a few vulgar terms. If you can last through his ranting you can last through pretty well any movie. There is drug use in the movie, especially cocaine. As far as the violence quotient, the most graphic involves a certain amphibian.

Despite the offensive material, there is a strongly redeeming worldview to “Magnolia”. Firstly, there is Officer Jim Kurring (Reilly). He is by far one of the more “normal” characters of the film and also the moral compass. He is a lonely Christian man looking for someone to love. And he is one of the most forgiving characters in cinematic history. There is a plague of Biblical proportions that actually eludes to its source (Exodus 8:2) quite plainly. This plague is to punish the characters for their wicked ways from fornication to hatred.

The message of forgiveness comes through loud and clear. The Director/Writer, Paul Thomas Anderson, has done his homework. He attempts to (and does) expose the ways we hurt each other and shows that no past wrongdoing cannot be undone or at least washed away. The last scene of the film touched me greatly and I found myself almost in tears.

“Magnolia” is a new kind of film that enters uncharted territory. The lyrics to Aimee Mann’s song entitled “Wise Up” suit well this film… “It’s not going to stop until you wise up.” Again, a remarkable film, but clearly not for everyone.

Viewer Comments
“vile”… “Magnolia” was without a doubt, the most vile, horrific and offensive movie I have ever seen! I cannot comprehend how anyone could possibly have one good thing to say about this movie. This is just the type of vulgarity our heavenly Father wants us to have no part of. I don’t care how much Hollywood or others try to talk around it by talking about the acting, or the film making. Trash is trash. Jesus does not need or want to use filth to show us how to forgive. He is love and speaks with love and kindness not vileness and vulgarity. “Magnolia” is the worst movie I have ever had the misfortune to see. My Ratings: [1/3]
—Kristy, age 36
“Horrid” / left early… The level of language was totally unacceptable. My mother, and sister, and I attended and left after 20 minutes feeling as if we needed a bath. Content and/or message does not override the need to subject one’s self to the constant barrage of obcenity. Save your money for something uplifting and inspiring. My Ratings: [1/1½]
—Debbie Adams, age 40
“The movie heals”… I have been fellowshipping with the Lord for over fifteen years and preach the gospel regularly in public to “sinners” and I must object to all the objections to this film. The movie heals. The foulness in the film is only meant to bring the viewer to reality and then display the psychological answers and healing to each characters' condition. No matter the evil of the beginning, no one will leave the theater that can deny that the writer of the script had God on his mind; and the healing of the human soul through forgiveness. I was more helped than hurt by the film. It was human psychology 101 in the most emotionally charged classroom. Not for everyone, but a mandatory treatment for those who have had problems with their fathers rejection, among other things. My Ratings: [2/5]
—Val M. Scott II, age 32
“the best movie I have ever seen”… I must say first, that I am a 40 year old male. Which, after reading through the below reviews I feel made a big difference in how one interprets the movie as well as their own willingness to explore their soul. I am married and have an 18 year old daughter and a 13 year old son. I went with my wife to the movie. We do not have TV in our home, my children attend a Christian Private School. I am an attorney in legal services, my wife is a hospice nurse. When we went to the movie we went because a close friend said go see it. I heard nothing about it, other than he said Tom Cruise is in it and you’ll see some good acting.

Was I offended by the language? No. Uncomfortable would be a better word, largely because I have worked with many younger males who lived such lives. I immediately saw the Biblical Verse (yes, it is in the first 60 seconds of the movie). So I new that I was in for an interesting ride. In short I thought this was the best movie I have ever seen. It touched me in ways that I have not been touched in before. It showed me sides of people that we need to see “what are you doing?” “Silently judging you.”

Was the director’s slap of the audiences face through Cruise. It made me rethink how I view others. What do I really know about that person? Finally the need for forgiveness, love, honesty in our relationships and what the result is when we are not able to do so was carried out wonderfully throughout the movie, (guilt, and in one case God not willing to let one unwilling sinner off the hook.)

No, this movie is not for anyone, in fact, I would not really recommend it for anyone under 30ish. Finally if you were offended by the movie the question I would ask you to ask of yourself is: was it what was said or the tension that you felt within because you are not willing to go to the place yet?
—Tim Aldrich, age 40
“poignant”… After reading this Web site’s audience reviews of P. T. Anderson’s film MAGNOLIA I am initially struck by the fact that I must be the oldest Christian attending movies these days. I am sixty-three years old and still getting the point of poignant films such as MAGNOLIA. Extend an abusive touch to a magnolia blossom and it will quickly fade and wilt. I need not repeat what may well be offensive to many viewers. Those points have already been made. Nor need I recount all the redeeming merits of this lengthy film’s profound interconnected themes and sub-plots. As Dan Revill, SPOTLIGHT’S guest reviewer, aptly observed “this movie is about the chances and coincidences that shape our lives.” Among the sub-plots that I especially loved best was the juxtaposition of two of the film’s characters—one of whom is a former and the other a current T. V. “quiz kid.”

The youthful brilliance of each of these characters has been and is being exploited by several generations of program producers, greedy parents and adoring fans. The older of the two characters made his momentary fame in the early days of black and white television. Crippled by a poorly developed self-image he has never been able to cope as an adult. The second character is “an innocent” who willfully falters in providing a “correct answer” during a live-audience TV broadcast of “What Do Kids Know?”

One could consider the entire film, with all of the dysfunctional characterizations, as “a quiz show” with the payoff question being “So what is the moral of the film?” The correct answer is provided by the younger “quiz kid” when he says to his brutish father “You better start treating me right.” Apparently, kids know the truth!

The film is a realistic presentation of the consequences of what happens when we don’t treat each other rightly. Forgiveness and repentance are part of the correct answer for righting the wrongs that shape our lives and that destroy the lives of others. Apparently, the film’s youthful director Anderson (age 30) knows that truth as well.

MAGNOLIA is a profoundly moral film that serves as a case study of original and actual sins running amok. Perhaps only mature, religiously minded adults possess the insight to penetrate the film’s admittedly complicated “chances and coincidences.” My Ratings: [3½/5]
—Gregory, age 63
mere chance?… Yes, vulgar indeed. However, despite this and the biblical references, I thought there was another message that was a little more subtle. The movie talked about coincidences and chance. Were the events that took place just mere chance? Perhaps it is saying that since the non-Christian world attributes everything to chance and that we should not be surprised when extraordinary things happen, we can also take all the weird things in this movie and say that “it just happened.” But that’s not really how we would react, would we? If frogs fell from the sky, we would say, “Now this can’t be mere chance!” But the characters in the movie just ignored the frogs like it was nothing. So, I think the creators of “Magnolia” were kind of poking fun at people who don’t attribute things to God. Anyway, that’s just my take and I don’t know if that was an intended message. My Ratings: [1/5]
—JP, age 22
no evil deeds rewarded in “Magnolia”… Well, if you want to rag on the offensive stuff, there is much there. I almost didn’t see the movie because of it. I’m glad I did. True, the beginning of the movie is the most offensive of the whole thing. In fact, the row of people that sat in front of me walked right out. The thing we have to bear in mind is that these are real characters, and the beginning of the movie is meant to set up what is going to happen later. It is the exposition. The movie later on is what was phenomenal. I don’t want to give what happens in the movie away, but it shows what happens when there is no forgiveness in someone’s life. It states (through a song), “you have to wise up or give up.” It’s like, “wake up and see where you at, see how horrible this is and get out!” By no means anywhere in the movie is an evil deed rewarded. Instead as James states, “lust brings forth sin, and when sin has conceived, it brings forth death.” We are seeing the death. If your offended by this material then stick to your convictions, praise God you walked out, but I was deeply impressed with the movie. My Ratings: [2½/5]
—Chris, age 21
glad I stuck with it… There is no question that this is an offensive movie, especially if you leave after the first 15 minutes! I almost walked out during one of the scenes with Tom Cruise’s character spouting some of the foulest things I have ever heard. However, I stuck it out, and I’m so glad I did! This is a complex movie, but the overall theme is, as someone has already said, about repentance and forgiveness. It is about the sins of the two fathers in the film and how those sins affect the lives of their children and others around them. And, it shows how faith in Christ can heal the effects of that sin, through the storyline about John C Reilley’s character.

By the end of the film, you see how its offensive aspects were necessary to make the film’s point. For example, when you later realize what his father has done to him, the vulgarity of Tom Cruise’s character not only makes sense, but becomes a necessary part of the story. You just couldn’t make a movie of this intensity and magnitude without those scenes.

This is a very thought-provoking film, and it seems that most people who see it like it better 24 hours after they see it than they did when they first walked out of the theater! It takes awhile to process it.

I would recommend this film, but with a strong warning about the its offensive content. Definitely not for everyone, but one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time. My Ratings: [1½/5]
—Debbie, age 31
a powerful presentation… The great thing about “Magnolia” is not the clever synchrony of the relationships, but the sincere intensity of the relationships themselves. …“Magnolia”’s strength is in its powerful presentation of guilt and the possibility of forgiveness for sins. And believe me, these characters have committed a few: abandonment, adultery, sexual and mental abuse, and goodness knows what else. Interestingly, the guilty parties all fully admit their guilt and are earnestly seeking from the wronged children and spouses a redemption that is by no means assured… The major flaw with “Magnolia” is its sheer bloat and inability to STOP. It just doesn’t know when to quit, so… it doesn't.

At three hours, it tests the limits of patience and bladder stamina. There’s so much plot, so many characters with so many issues going in so many directions, it all becomes too much… So do I hate this movie? Nah. I’m soft on “grand vision” films, and it’s hard to stay mad at a film so cheerfully irresponsible, well-meaning and earnest. Is it a great film? Don’t you believe it.

But when it pauses for breath, it is a sincere observation of dysfunctional family relationships and at least the possibility of being forgiven. And any film these days that looks at such things with an open heart instead of a jaundiced eye can’t be all bad, now can it? My Ratings: [2½/3½]
—Pete Mills, age 29
“It will offend and cause you to think”… If you like to see movies about people, characters and their lives—this is it. “Magnolia” is a glimpse into 24 hours in the lives of a group of people randomly interconnected. They go through various trials and events and we see their responses. The movie is vulgar and offensive, so is secular life. The movie is emotional and long, so is life.

It will offend and cause you to think. If anything it will cause you to praise even more the lovely life you may have in Christ already. Hopefully, your existence is based on His salvation and not other things like the characters in the movie. There are great references to compassion and forgiveness. Even Biblical reference is used as a climax. The movie was done excellently and it is a saga. (Very similar to Altmana’s “Short Cuts”) My Ratings: [2/5]
—Tim Plona, age 36
“about love and forgiveness and redemption”… “Magnolia” is the best film of the year. It is also the first film I’ve seen in years that has a Christian as one of its main characters and treats him with the utmost respect. This movie is not for everyone. The language is excessive, although it’s important to note that the Christian character in the film never utters one bad word. The performances are outstanding. Tom Cruise gives a courageous performance. I was saddened to read below that one reviewer left after fifteen minutes and prayed that God would forgive him for staying that long… I’m a Christian, but I don’t live in a bubble, and I don’t expect non-Christians to share my values or to speak the same way I do. This guy said he was offended by Tom Cruise’s character. Well, if he had FINISHED the film he would have understood why Cruise’s character was the way he was and that at the film’s close he made a positive change.

This is a huge, sprawling move, about love and forgiveness and redemption. And at the end of the film, in a climax that is sure to blow most viewers away, God physically imposes himself on the characters and people are either forgiven or not. John C. Reilly plays the Christian in the film. A police officer who prays and lives his life the way a Christian would.

Bravo Paul Thomas Anderson for giving a Christian the same respect you gave your other characters. You are a brilliant writer and a marvelous director and your film will hopefully heal many people and make them feel. The movie is fueled by Aimee Mann’s beautiful songs. 4 stars. 10/10. The best film of the year. My Ratings: [2/5]
—Josh, age 20
superb, but not for everyone… Where do I even begin? How about with Exodus 8:2, a hidden verse of reference throughout the film many times: “If you refuse to let them go, I will plague the whole country with frogs.”

Now, onto the movie. The movie started out uniquely by looking into past “coincidences” in history. Whether these “coincidences” were fictional or not, I do not know. However, I did find it very intriguing. About 20 minutes into the movie, about 10 elderly persons walked out due to the film’s vulgarity and offensive language. I had the urge of leaving too, but I had heard so many good things about this film, I decided to stick it out.

The rest of the film followed 9 different plot lines, and formed them together in a way that was way too drawn out. The content of the movie was not for children under 18, and for no one over 30. :) The characters in the film are so sick. But it makes us question ourselves. Are we all that sick? Is society really that messed up? Definitely. That is why, nearing the end of the film, a plague is sent from the sky, in a remarkable scene of falling frogs.

It is shocking, laughable, but altogether frightening that we do not see GOD as having enough power to actually do that to us. Wake up people. The movie overall was well-made and well-done. The acting was superb. The plots were superb.

The content of the movie, however, was very offensive, and I would have a hard time recommending this for any of my Christian friends. My Ratings: [1/4½]
—Dan Hamilton, age 21
“offensive, but a true work of art”… I watched this movie with quite a few apprehensions due to the extreme graphic content. Yes, the movie was very offensive. However, after leaving this movie, and after about a day of thinking about the movie, I concluded that “Magnolia” is a true work of art. (With an emphasis on art… you truly need to look at this “portrait” with an open mind to truly grasp the beautiful concept that the movie tries to convey.) Yes, the movie is filled with vulgarities. However, I feel as if these vulgarities are, for the most part, appropriate in order to illustrate a point that many Americans tend to push away. A true masterwork!
—Jonathan Haeger, age 19
“long and involved”… Very good film, though not for everyone. Long and involved. Only appropriate for adults, and still be prepared for a lot of offensive content, as these are all damaged people. There is a lot of obscenity (Tom Cruise plays a crude, over the top sex guru), adultery, one of the characters is a homosexual (though it is a minor plot point), etc. The most “decent” character is a Christian, shown praying (he makes a Catholic cross afterwards, so he is presumably Catholic) and referring to Jesus. While his decency is comical to a degree, the movie portrays him with respect. The movie is about forgiveness. My Ratings: [2/4]
—Paul, age 24
left me feeling “mind-raped”… This was the absolute most awful, offensive, vulgar movie I have ever set foot in. We were there for about 15 minutes before walking out. During that time the “F” word was spewed out by almost every actor or actress multiple times, there were two very raw lurid sex scenes (pardon me but “humping scenes”!!!) and one character who portrayed an expert in “Conquering and Seducing.” He had written a book and did seminars and infommercials etc.

His rederick was so offensive to women that I don’t think he could exist in mainstream America as portrayed in this film. Unbelievable that someone would even write the stuff coming out of his mouth it was so vulgar and ignorant. He talked about women like cattle and the enemy to be seduced. One of the “nicest” and most mellow words he used was “c*nt”. Now, I don’t consider that a nice word, but for this character… it was.

By the way, that character was played by Tom Cruise. He lost a lot of my respect in “Eyes Wide Shut,” but now I have no respect for him or desire to ever see him in any movie again. I ask God to forgive me for staying there 15 minutes… I kept waiting for some wonderful “turn-around” to take place in the movie. The reviews I read made it sound like a superb, ground-breaking and uplifting movie. I felt mind-raped by the raw stench of evil straight from the pit of hell. I am also deeply saddened that this is what our world has come to… To produce, promote in glowing terms, and air in the mainstream with such lurid and offensive material. We have also decided to not go see any PG-13 or R rated movies unless we read Christian reviews first as we never want to encounter such an awful experience again. Please do yourself a favor and don’t go see this movie. We are very broad minded, non judgmental people. But, I honestly cannot understand how anyone could give this movie any kind of positive review. My Ratings: [1/2]
—Brenda Curtiss, age 41
left the film early… I read the comments by Brenda Curtiss (above). She is absolutely correct about this movie and expresses herself very well. I left after 15 minutes. I have now decided I will never waste my time again without consulting this site. Thank you for being in existance.
—Nancy, age 48
Terrible flick. Even if you look passed the vulgar language and nudity (and that’s not so easy to do) you’re left with a looonnnnggggg movie about dispicable characters and their equally dispicable relationships to one another. Sat through the whole thing, but now wish I had left after the first 5 minutes. My Ratings: [1/3]
—J. R., age 35, non-Christian
“one of the best films of the year / a parody”… Being a huge fan of Paul Thomas Anderson’s previous film “Boogie Nights,” I had high expectations, but after having been crushed with disappointment in other highly anticipated films this year (“Star Wars,” “Eyes Wide Shut,” “Dogma”) I held reservations. I had no reason to. A sprawling fascinating character study of the San Fernando Valley. Easily one of the best films of the year. Is it appropriate for kids? Well, most of them won’t at all be interested, to be honest… Frank TJ mackey’s Seduce and destroy system for meeting women was in fact, a PARODY of such “self help” gurus. Earlier this year, the abysmal “Omega Code” featured a motivational speaker who gives advice that most Christians would find blasphemous or offensive. Yet it was understood that this was intended to satirize or parody the self help movement. Keep this in mind. Please, watch the entire film before passing judgment. Yes, sex and the “f” word are prominently featured. It’s an R-rated film for mature teenagers and adults.My Ratings: [2/5]
—Joe Foster, age 20, non-Christian
Comments from non-viewers
Negative—I had thought that I wanted to see this movie, in spite of the language issues. I was wrong. Before the first hour was over, I ejected the DVD…
—Mark, age 55 (USA)