1001 Movie Club: Magnolia (1999)

Stephen Jay Schneider chose this movie as one of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.” He compiled a massive list from the classic to the obscure for his anthology. The most worthy movies are chosen to be on this list. Every year, there is a revision to include the most essential movies to be on the minds of film buffs everywhere.

I was disheartened that Magnolia was chosen as one of the movies that the 1001 Movie Club has to review. I have seen this movie after it made a big splash at the Oscars in 2000. When I saw the film, I did not have the best things to say about the movie. I have chosen not to see the movie again; I am basing this review on memory.

Director Paul Thomas Anderson interweaves almost a dozen tiny stories that seems to not to mesh that somehow thinly interconnects. The narrator Ricky Jay shows the random ironic coincidences of life. One story revolves around a hapless police officer, Jim Kurning (John C. Reilly) is called to the scene of a dead body being discovered in the closet of a woman, Marcie (Cleo King). As the night progresses, other officers that arrive to the scene are ignoring his assessments about what happens.

The anchor of the story is about a television producer, Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) on his deathbed. He is succumbing to late stage cancer, and is cared for by his male nurse, Phil (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Earl asks Phil to find his estranged son, Frank, because his much younger wife, Linda (Julianne Moore) is trying to get enough morphine to euthanize him.

Mackey (Tom Cruise) is self-help “guru” with a foul mouth that teaches man about manipulating women into having sex with them. His plan, “Seduce and Destroy” have men going in droves to listen to his polemics about gullible and dealing with the power of cock. After his seminar, a sly reporter, Gwenovier (April Grace) interviews Mackey about his bullshit rhetoric until she fins a chink in his armor.

A former game show wiz kid, Donnie Smith (William H. Macy) tries to get his life back into order to his former glory. The game show storyline also incorporates a former game show host of “What Do Kids Know?” Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall) that recently finds out that he has cancer. He seeks out to reconnect with his cokehead daughter, Claudia (Melora Walters) to tell her. In addition, there is a stage father, Rick (Michael Bowen) that pushes his son, Stanley (Jeremy Blackman) to win the prize money to help out with his acting career.

I thought that the stories were somewhat interesting, but not so much that I could be invested in most of them. The only part of the movie that marginally liked was the Earl Partridge storyline. I thought that it was very poignant. The ending was huge WTF for me. Really? Really! Tom Cruise got the most acclaim for this movie, because he was a leading man taking a supporting role in an ensemble movie. His personal segment was not that intriguing, but when he shows up in another one. That was great.

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

1001 Movie Club Approved

Judgment: Why do I feel like a Crash all over again?

Rating: **1/2

About Branden

Branden: I am just your average movie nut that reviews films. Gives his take on pop culture and Hollywood happenings. Dreams to have his own thriving website and make a living doing what he is passionate about.

Posted on December 28, 2009, in 1001 Movie Club Selection, 1999, Academy Award Nominee, Crime, Drama, Meme, Running Feature, Top 250 of All Time on IMDB and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. While I liked this movie a lot more than you did, I agree with you that the individual stories are not interesting themselves. It’s the non-linear telling of the stories, and the way Anderson pulled them altogether that did it for me. You brought up some good points. Of all the stories, did you not find the interview with Tom Cruise the apex of the film?

    • The deconstruction of Frank’s character in that movie was good, but I thought the sequences with dying Partridge was better in my eyes.

  2. I loved this movie. Sure if you look at everything from an individual point of view it’s not as engaging, but the collaboration of each tale together and the overall perspective made it engaging as hell, and the character of Frank was truly one of my favorite character’s in film history and for me my second favorite role by Tom Cruise.

  3. As far as ensemble cast films, I’d be hard pressed to come up with a better film than Magnolia… maybe Boogie Nights. I loved John C Reilly and William H Macy in this movie, an I’ve written at length about how this is probably Tom Cruise’s best performance ever.

    You can watch closely for a ton of Freemason symbols and references. Anderson must have way in deep to masonry when he made it.

    Crash only wishes it could be half the film Magnolia was.

    • I don’t see it. That’s why I didn’t like Crash that much. A filmmaker try to force a message down your throat. You may not see it that way, but I do. The film turned me off.

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