Magnolia is a 1999 drama film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and starring Tom Cruise, John C. Reilly, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Julian Moore among others. It is a problematic, but still a very strong movie.
The theme of this movie is that of luck and chance. And while that subject matter is fascinating to me and that beginning was a perfect starting point to this conversation, I still found its third act a bit to unbelievable and they did not convince that this can happen in real life as well because it seemed too cinematic in my opinion. But the overall stories are very interesting with most of the characters being very well developed and explored and with a couple of beautiful sequences that are emotionally rewarding.
I really liked the character of Frank and his wild persona is really amusing, but he got the more serious treatment later on which was great. I liked Stanley’s role to some degree. He got a couple of very memorable scenes, but he was quite underused and disappeared entirely during the third act of the movie. Phil is also underused and the most forgettable character of the bunch. But I absolutely loved Jim as this clunky, but inherently endearing police officer. I loved his dialogue and his scenes with Claudia are so charming, romantic and just incredibly sweet. Rose and Jimmy are frankly boring and Earl has some great scenes, but he is a great vehicle for Frank. Donnie is one of the best characters here as his troubles are so real and more than a couple of scenes with him are moving just because of that.
The acting is the finest reason to see Magnolia. It just has one of the best ensemble casts in recent history and each and every actor and actress delivers. Tom Cruise in particular surprised me with his fantastic performance. Maybe it was too similar to his real life persona, but he sold every scene he was in with a bravura performance in an incredibly difficult role with crazy behavior and wild personality. His performance is the finest one here and this is definitely the best performance of his career! Julian Moore is expectedly terrific, albeit her character is underused. Hoffman is also pretty good as is Melinda Dillon, but William H. Macy is just superb in his difficult role and is one of the highlights here. But John C. Reilly surprised me even more than Cruise because he is just so good here. Although he somehow did not fit this serious movie at first, he eventually did so as time progressed and his role is perfect for him and he does deliver with a couple of great sequences. He is so lovable in this role.
Magnolia is very well shot and the directing from Paul Thomas Anderson is pretty good. Some scenes are epic, but I wished that the ending was more epic than it was. The score is just great as it is sometimes very moving and quite memorable. The emotion is felt and some scenes are just so strong and even powerful and heartbreaking. The editing, however, is the reason why this movie is problematic. It is very poorly edited with some characters getting so little to do and others getting too much to do. Also, some scenes are overlong whereas others are rushed. It is very hard to edit a three hour long movie and I understand that, but this was still done too weak to the point of being a serious problem for the whole film. It is just never as polished or as tight as it needed to be.
Magnolia does have some great stories, but some plots are uninspired and typical. And the reason why I think it’s dated is just the flaw it shares with ‘American Beauty‘ of the same year – each and every character is odd, very problematic, crazy or has some serious issue. That isn’t realistic at all and that is why I deem those movies dated. But the tone is well handled as it isn’t too melodramatic and a nice balance is struck between melodrama and humor as well as some romance and emotion. The movie is smart, but I expected it would be even more sophisticated due to an intriguing opening. The dialogue is very good and I really liked it and the film is at times very dramatic and very relatable. It isn’t one of the year’s best films, but is still mostly very good and worth seeing despite an epic running time.
Magnolia does have its inconsistencies with some dated aspects to it and a couple of boring or underused characters plus it is poorly edited, well acted with Tom Cruise being surprisingly good and delivering his finest performance to date, it is very emotional at times, the stories are mostly interesting, some characters are so relatable and endearing and the film is mostly very engaging, dramatic and emotionally rewarding.
My Rating – 4