After “Boogie Nights” came out in 1997, Paul Thomas Anderson (one of my all-time favorite filmmakers) or PTA for short, commenced development of his next project titled, “Magnolia.” A drama focusing on a wide variety of troubled three-dimensional characters struggling with social problems like a bad childhood, drug addiction, greed, in debt, dying of cancer among a few situations. Originally a short movie, PTA became invested with the characters expanding it into a three-hour plus epic drama. After reuniting most of the cast members from Boogie Nights and hiring Tom Cruise, it took five months to complete the film. Six Months Later, Magnolia opened in theaters.
Magnolia was released in 1999. (same year Toy Story 2 came out) It received positive reviews from critics (including Roger Ebert) and movie goers alike. Sadly, it bombed at box office. Tom Cruise was nominated for “Best Supporting Actor.” Unfortunately, Michael Caine took home the Oscar for his performance in “The Cider House Rules.” Despite good reception, some movie goers walked out. Kevin Smith confirmed he hated Magnolia and dissed it in “Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back.”
Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film “Licorice Pizza” is earning critical praise. In response to the hype surrounding it, I thought about sharing my thoughts on Magnolia if it’s a timeless classic or just plain rubbish. Tom Cruise will reprise his iconic roles as Maverick & Ethan Hunt in “Top Gun Maverick” & “Mission Impossible 7.”
Today’s review contains no SPOILERS. I’m giving some of you a chance to see Magnolia. Is it a timeless classic? Let’s find out, shall we?
Strengths & Weaknesses
Strengths: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Tom Cruise, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy, Phillip Baker Hall, & Jason Robards (Once Upon A Time In The West) all did an excellent job for their respective performances.
Fun Fact: Tom Cruise & Phillip Seymour Hoffman collaborated in “Mission Impossible III.”
Paul Thomas Anderson did a decent job carefully organizing an ensemble cast in a three-hour movie. PTA mentioned Magnolia is the best thing he’s ever made. You can tell he’s very passionate taking his time fleshing out the script like playing the boardgame “Life” all by himself.
The late Rick Jay provides narration.
Cinematography never succumbed to any technical issues.
Jon Brion (Punch-Drunk Love, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind) orchestrated the music. The late Mac Miller (my favorite singer/rapper) was a fan of Jon Brion’s work. The latter produced the former’s final album “Circles.” If Mac were alive today, he would’ve contributed to a PTA movie.
While working on Stanley Kubrick’s final film “Eyes Wide Shut,” Tom Cruise signed on to play Frank T.J. Mackey, because he enjoyed Boogie Nights. He even took a massive pay cut for $100,000 supporting PTA’s vision. Now that’s dedication for an A-list action hero.
Opening Scene establishes an ensemble cast of characters taking place within 24 hours. What you’re about to see will keep you invested or not. I, on the other hand, never felt miserably bored. I really cared for about the characters.
PTA instructed the crew to watch his favorite movie “Network” before commencing production.
While filming his scenes, Jason Robards was slowly dying in real life. He put a lot of effort going through hell acting in his last movie.
Every single character is memorable. Some of them have an interesting complicated past.
Aimee Mann (no relation to Leslie Mann) provided songs for the film. A cover version of “One,” & “Save Me.” I forgot to mentioned that the latter was nominated at The Oscars for “Best Original Song.” Sadly, Aimee was robbed by Phill Collins’ “You’ll Be In My Heart from “Tarzan.”
Primary Themes are Guilt, Regret, Greed, Hope, Addiction, Cancer, & Forgiveness. Each one is handled maturely.
Patton Oswalt makes a small appearance as a blackjack dealer. I forgot he was in it.
Alfred Molina has a small scene as Donnie’s boss.
Henry Gibson (the original Charlotte’s Web, Nashville, The Blues Brothers) appears as a customer drinking at a bar. PTA mentioned Robert Altman influenced his work. I think He casted Henry, due to his role in “Nashville.”
Luis Gusman has a role as a contestant on Jimmy Gator’s game show.
Thomas Jane plays a younger version of Jimmy Gator. He was also in Boogie Nights.
“Thus Spoke Zarathustra” the opening theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey” is played during Frank T.J. Mackey’s public appearance. Prior to Magnolia, Tom invited PTA on the set of Eyes Wide Shut giving him a chance to say hello to Stanley Kubrick. PTA mentioned Stanley is one of his inspirations as a director.
Without giving too much away, The Ending has an unexpected moment. I believe it’s left for the viewer to interpret the outcome. Now I understand why people left the theater and Kevin Smith dissing Magnolia.
Weaknesses: Pacing can be a drab at times. I didn’t mind going back and forth between characters. I’ll let this con slide.
The Final Verdict: A, FOR APEX!
As a fan of Paul Thomas Anderson’s work, Magnolia is a timeless classic. Some of the strengths I’ve listed, indicates why Magnolia (Number 5) is one of my Top 5 favorite movies of 1999 besides “Fight Club,”(Number 1) “Toy Story 2,” (Number 2) “Austin Powers The Spy Who Shagged Me, (Number 3) “The Matrix.” (Number 4) To this day, I’m baffled why some people like Kevin Smith dislike Magnolia. Anyway, ignore the haters and give Magnolia a try.
Someday, I hope The Criterion Collection includes Magnolia on DVD/Blu-Ray.