"No, it is not dangerous to confuse children with angels!"
Review by Ross Anthony

"Magnolia" is magnificent!

You know those plate jugglers? The ones that start a plate spinning up on a bendy rod. That's impressive enough, isn't it? But they set up another and another, until there are nine plates tottering on sticks all over the stage. Then you're not only impressed, but you start to feel like your attention or your muse or your thoughts themselves are like wobbling plates. You slowly come to realize that the able juggler has a plan larger than tableware ... you've been set spinning on a bendy rod. Paul Thomas Anderson is that juggler.

Showing finesse for film like none we've seen in a long time, Anderson conducts a nine-ring circus and makes it look easy. With well over a hundred big films produced a year, so many would-be-classics topple as they approached climax. Perhaps it's a lack of directorial discipline, perhaps it's creative control. No matter to the viewer, when the giant falls -- it makes a horrible crashing sound!

"Magnolia" is so large it really climaxes twice, Anderson reveling in each peak, where other artists stumble. Instead of dreading the turbulence, like a pilot in a hurricane, Anderson relishes that intensity, plays it out with all his might, rolling with the thunder instead of fighting it or challenging it. Then grinning peacefully proud as it resolves. Never a moment where he feels out of control. Never a doubt that a spinning plate might have fallen.

Mainly character and relationship driven, Anderson's cast rises to the occasion of this masterpiece. Tom Cruise will seduce and destroy you, Jason Robards will have you hanging on the edge of his death bed, and John C. Reilly will win you over in less than two minutes of screen time rising from his knees after prayer with a slap of hands -- a personal high five to himself.

The audio mix favors the music (volume-wise), glossing the production with a music video feel. Anderson admits Aimee Mann songs (former lead singer of "Till Tuesday") provided more than just a few seeds for the patiently blooming "Magnolia." Her fans will love this film.

Anderson was careful not to tell too much of the story in its previews and ads -- I will not defeat that effort. I will tell you this, "Magnolia" isn't the dark moody indie type film I expected it to be by the black advert. Nor is it an action attraction. It is, simply put, an entertainment event ... like spending the day at an amusement park or (I don't know) parachuting from a plane. Its complexity dangles on the edge of the human brain's capacity for input. When the movie ended, I was starving -- though I'd had a huge meal prior. So plan your day accordingly. You've been warned. Also, bring aspirin -- it's pretty intense.

  • Magnolia. Copyright © 1999. Rated R.
  • Starring Jeremy Blackman, Tom Cruise, Melinda Dillon, Philip Baker Hall, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ricky Jay, William H. Macy, Alfred Molina, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Jason Robards and Melora Walters.
  • Written and Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.
  • Produced by Joanne Sellar at New Line.


Copyright © 1999. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:03:03 PDT