24 hours in L.A.; it’s raining cats and dogs. Two parallel and intercut stories dramatize men about to die: both are estranged from a grown child, both want to make contact, and neither child wants anything to do with dad. Earl Partridge’s son is a charismatic misogynist; Jimmy Gator’s daughter is a cokehead and waif. A mild and caring nurse intercedes for Earl, reaching the son; a prayerful and upright beat cop meets the daughter, is attracted to her, and leads her toward a new calm. Meanwhile, guilt consumes Earl’s young wife, while two whiz kids, one grown and a loser and the other young and pressured, face their situations. The weather, too, is quirky.
User Reviews: Forget American Beauty, The Sixth Sense, Eyes Wide Shut. Magnolia is definitely the best movie of 1999, and one of the best American movies ever made.
Boogie Nights, Paul Thomas Anderson’s previous effort was already a promising effort, but it was a bit too long. Magnolia is even longer, but it’s filled with such a spectrum of touching stories and such a quantity of wonderful characters, that I didn’t even notice the three hour length. Magnolia is a mosaic of intertwining and intercepting stories, dealing with such issues as forgiveness, hurt, redemption, sin and the role of chance in our lives. And though the film offers a deep emotional catharsis, it never loses it delicate, humane tone. The people Magnolia displays are not the best of men, but none of them are beyond forgiveness. That, to my opinion, is the most important message the film conveys.
As many have already said, Magnolia is an ensemble piece. Acting is superb throughout the film, and though Magnolia has approximately ten lead role and a bunch of supporting characters, there isn’t a single member of the cast who is misplaced. My personal favorites are Philip Seymour Hoffman as the sensitive nurse (compare this role to the sleazy characters he played in Boogie Nights, Happiness and The Talented Mr Ripley and you’ll notice what a great actor he is), Tom Cruise as the self-made seduction guru (his best performance ever) and William H. Macy as the former child prodigy who never grew up (his role resembles the one he did in Fargo, but in Magnolia he is redeemed of his sins).
No film is perfect and even Magnolia has it’s flaws, but I’m still so stunned by this masterpiece that I haven’t even started to think what they could be. That, I think, says it all about the quality of this film.
Rating: **** (of ****)