Reviewed by: Dan Revill
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.