Magnolia (1999) Movie Review

By: Movie Snurb (Two Beers) –

Magnolia is an intense introspective drama of a character study. It follows several different storylines of people going through different levels of crisis. Magnolia boasts a fantastic cast: Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and William H. Macy and several more. It also has brilliant writing and direction from Paul Thomas Anderson (PTA). Magnolia poses several questions; one big one is are we all really connected? Maybe by a higher power?

A Toast

At a runtime of 188 minutes, Magnolia’s pacing never slows. Many people would be turned off of a film that’s just over 3 hours, but PTA does a marvelous job switching between multiple storylines without impeding the pace of the film. PTA does a great job at not muddling the storylines or give the audience whiplash with jarring storyline changes. The changes are seamless and let the film flow smoothly. Magnolia’s pacing begins to rev up in the third act. PTA slowly unfolds each character so in the third act each character has fully blossomed and the audience is drawn so intently to the film that the last hour feels like it’s about 20 minutes. When a writer takes the time to slowly unveil their characters, the audience will become more invested in the story because as we learn more about the character we begin to care more about what happens to each character.

The best example is Tom Cruise’s Frank T.J. Mackie, a motivational speaker who runs a self-help seminar to pick up and sleep with women. His father Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) is dying and being cared for by Phil Parma (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Earl says he wants to speak to his son as you can tell he is on his last leg. So most of the film Phil Parma is tracking Frank down. Phil ends up getting through to Frank who agrees to come see his father. Throughout the film we discover why Frank hasn’t talked to his father in years and why he is so reluctant to come to his side at his last moments. This storyline culminates in Frank at Earl’s bedside which proves why Tom Cruise was nominated for an Oscar for his performance. The entire cast delivers brilliant performances, but it’s Cruise who is able to take a man who most would be repulsed by and slowly make him a person everyone can understand and sympathize with. Tom Cruise is known for his action blockbuster star power, but he has real talent as an actor. I hope in his older age he does meatier roles such as this one and finally wins the Oscar he deserves.

The theme of the film is quite thought-provoking; much like Manchester by the Sea, I spent some time introspectively reflecting on life. I took away from the film that everyone is in the world is more connected then we think. Also, there’s a possibility that we are all connected by a higher power. It’s a view of life that I’ve always held. I try not to be judgmental or generalize any group of people because deep down we are all more alike then most realize. Most of us are going through the same sort of shit on a daily basis, so why would I think I’m better than someone or can judge what someone might be going through?

Beer Two

This is a great film with what I interpreted as a great theme. However, I could understand why someone might be frustrated with this film because I feel like this film is open to interpretation and some can say those are cop out endings. However, I think this film’s theme is so complicated that you get what you want out of it. So, I think without a clear message the film is hindered slightly, but overall it’s still a very good film.


Magnolia is another heavy and intense drama from the genius mind of Paul Thomas Anderson. The brilliant writing and acting is worth the three-hour runtime.

Magnolia (1999) Movie Review

Take a Drink: for every new character introduced

Take a Drink: for every switch to a different story line

Take a Drink: every time a character cries

Finish your Drink: when it begins to “rain”

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