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Drama, Fantasy - Magic Realism

Magnolia (1999)

Duration3h 08m
RatingsUK: 18, USA: R, Spain: 18 
Source of storyAn original screenplay
DirectorPaul Thomas Anderson
Writers/ScriptPaul Thomas Anderson
StarringTom Cruise, Melora Walters, Phillip Baker Hall, Thomas Jane, Melinda Dillon, William H. Macey, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Alfred Molina, Henry Gibson, Clark Gregg, Ricky Jay, Miriam Margolyes, Jeremy Blackman, Luis Guzmán
RatingsIMDb: 8.0 by 300k people.  Rotten Tomatoes: 83% by 148 reviewers.

Elevator Pitch: A number of characters live out their lives in the San Fernando valley. Central to the story is a dying man, who had been the producer of a children’s quiz show. The show goes on, presented by a man who his daughter thinks abused her. She is a cocaine addict and as the result of playing music too loudly is vested by a policeman who fancies her. Meanwhile the dying man’s estranged son, a motivational speaker who topic is the seduction of women, is interviewed by a reporter who uncovers his history. They dying man’s younger wife buys drugs which may hasten his departure. The estranged son is persuaded to visit and, almost peripherally, a former winner of the quiz show experiences hard times.

Content: There is sex and nudity in the initial moments of the film and the motivational speaker talks about sex in an adversarial way a lot. The cocaine addict snorts a lot of the drug and there is some drinking particularly in a bar frequented by the former quiz winner. The policemen is seen to be mostly engaged in investigating noise complaints and he and the cocaine addict get together. The quiz show is frequently visited with the brightest child wetting himself and losing concentration. The presenter is also seen collapsing on stage. And then there is the rain of frogs. 

A View:   This film was nominated for three Oscars none of which it won, but it did win many awards and made a bit of money. It is included in many critics “Best” films. There is a point where all the cast sing the same song in their own locations, awful I thought. But there also is a scene where Phil, the dying man’s nurse, answers the door accompanied by the four dogs who live in the house. It must have been ad libbed and it is terrific. In short, because I have gone on too long, I did not like it but it is probably essential viewing for students of film.

Additional Info: When interviewed much later about the film the director said that it was far too long, and really he should have cut some plot strands. I agree.

About Victor R Gibson

Author of this site three technical books and two novels

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