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copyright ©1999-2000

flick pick | Magnolia 1999
Directed + written by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Tom Cruise, Philip Baker Hall, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Jason Robards, Melora Walters
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: drama 
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something: 
The verdict: / 5 the rating system explained

Plot synopsis Where to begin to summarize the complicated plot – or rather plots – that Magnolia juggles and inter-weaves? The movie essentially follows two families and several loosely connected characters through a single, unbelievably eventful day in their lives in the San Fernando Valley. In one plotline, an elderly TV producer (Robards) lies dying in his palatial home, slipping into and out of consciousness as his nurse (Hoffman) makes phone call after phone call in an attempt to track down the man’s estranged son. The son (Cruise), as it turns out, is a quasi-evangelistic motivational speaker who urges men to reclaim the male chauvinistic asshole within. A second plotline follows an aging game show host (Hall) and his wrecked relationship with his coke-addict daughter Claudia (Walters). A slew of other characters enter and exit and re-surface again: a former game show whiz kid (Macy) who loses his job, then goes to the local bar to ogle his crush and drown his sorrows in liquor; a lonely, oddball but kind-hearted cop (Reilly) who falls in love with Claudia.

Review Magnolia is one of those movies that you’ll either absolutely adore or violently abhor. It’s long (over three hours), ambitious (packing in an incredible density of movie stars and parallel plotlines), frequently messy (during its long middle stretch, you very much start wondering where this is all heading and whether there’s any point) and at times, particularly near its climax and conclusion, bordering on the outright absurd. And, like Anderson’s Boogie Nights, this is a movie about the seedier side of life – "icky" people with "icky" lives who do not-so-nice things that maybe you’d be happier not hearing about. My feeling is this: if you’re someone who looks to movies for messages that hit you over the head with a simple statement about the profound meaning of life, if you like your stories neat and straightforward, with good guys and bad guys and a logical linear progression, skip this flick … it’s just not for you. This is a movie that’s tied together by a theme – of connections lost, broken, re-established, or emerging from out of the blue – not by some final scene that puts everyone in the same room and gives each his just desserts. But if your willing to entertain the notion that maybe plots don’t need to resolve in order for a movie to feel complete, that people can be interesting not because of what they do, but what they are (ugly though that sometimes may be), rent this un-conventional movie and enjoy its near-perfect performances and poignant characterizations. 
reviewed by Y. Sun 

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