ByAbbie Levinson, writer at
An MLA girl in an APA world

Hey everyone, apologies for not posting in a while. Between midterms and outside world stress, I haven't been able to coherently write anything worthy of your attention.

I know Movie Pilot is a site for new/upcoming films, but I would like to take a step back and write a review of what is probably the greatest movie of all time.

Or of the 90s, at least.

Magnolia, directed by my personal lord and savior, Paul Thomas Anderson (1999).

Magnolia is an enigma in its finest sense of the word. Its gigantic and forceful cast of characters (led by Tom Cruise, who won the Golden Globe for his performance, my favorite Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Julianne Moore) guides the audience through a series of coincidental events that truly show that this, indeed, is something that happens.

These strange things happen all the time, the movie proclaims. And, boy, is it ever so right.

Beginning with one of the three urban legends PTA uses to illustrate just how coincidentally calculated his story is, the story of Sydney Barringer is retold. Sydney's "unsuccessful suicide/successful homicide" occurred after he loaded a shotgun which he knew his mother would threaten his father with. For himself, Sydney decided to throw himself off of the roof of his apartment building. A net at the bottom of the building would have prevented his suicide from coming to fruition if it wasn't for his mother shooting the gun, the bullet which hit Sydney right as he passed his story's window.

He was listed as an accomplice in his own murder.

What a coincidence.

The viewer is introduced to the main cast which will then be the source of the story for the next 3 hours and 8 minutes of the film. In order of appearance, they are:

Frank T.J. Mackie, a motivational speaker of sorts, who helps men er, "pick up" women in a horrific show of masochism (Cruise).

Claudia Wilson-Gator (Melora Walters), the estranged daughter of popular game show host, Jimmy Gator. Hobbies include crack and Aimee Mann.

Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman), famous quiz-kid, who is a regular on Jimmy's show, "What Do Kids Know?" His father, if one would call him that, uses his son's accomplishments for his own financial gain. Swell fella.

"Quiz Kid" Donnie Smith - brilliantly portrayed by William H. Macy, Smith is a reflection of who Stanley will become. Once famous for his game show performances, he now finds himself broke, but overbearingly wealthy with love.

And my favorite character (although I might be biased by my unwavering love for PSH), Phil Parma. PTA has been recorded saying that the character of Parma was really just Hoffman, but in scrubs. Parma is a warm-hearted hospice nurse, taking care of Earl Partridge (Jason Robards).

Earl, the patriarch of a studio company, under which "What Do Kids Know?" is shown. He is dying of lung cancer.

Linda Partridge (Julianne Moore), his younger, beautiful wife. Originally married Earl for his wealth, but has a change of heart during his final weeks. Hobbies include prescription medication and saying "fuck."

Officer Jim Kurring (a lovable John C. Reilly), a friendly, yet stern, police officer. God-fearing, and a believer of true love. He takes his work seriously, and is more reminiscent of a police dog rather than an officer.

These characters intertwine their way into one another's hearts, for better or for worse. Truly, I could go on for ages retelling you this story, but seeing as this is my first movie review, I won't torture you for that long.

One of the standout featured in this film is not only the directing (d'uh), but the cinematography. There are several long shots which stretch to three to four minutes at a time throughout the film, a signature of a PTA masterpiece. He combines pan-ups and zoom-ins, and once again vignettes the lens to the shape of an iris, which can be found in his 1997 film Boogie Nights, and again in his 2002 film Punch-Drunk Love.

The most memorable scene in Magnolia is undoubtedly the frogs. Behold, a coincidence that is literally biblical in size has been brought down on our depressed and toxic cast. Some may find this, combined with the sing-along to Aimee Mann's "Wise Up," to be tipping over the edge of corny, but it is the opinion of this reviewer that it is nothing short of genius.

There is so much more to talk about when it comes to this film, but there is only so much I can say without ruining the ethereal experience you will have if it is your first time watching the film.

So, do yourself a favor, watch it.

As the book says, we may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us.


Latest from our Creators