A P.T. Anderson film (written and directed)
Starring Tom Cruise, Julliette Moore, Jason Robards, William H Macy
Sam North on why you should own
P.T. Anderson has created one of the most moving and electric movies of
all times and its all the more remarkable because this is only his
third feature, the strange and sleazy Boogie Nights being
his most successful.
Magnolia is written around the lyrics and tunes of Aimee Manns songs
- she of the sad song, sad voice, life sucks but you still want
more variety. He has achieved much more than he set out to do. Not
only are such songs as One and Momentum used to
good affect, but they dominate, deliberately overwhelming the dialogue
and weirdly the cast even sing along with the her during Wise Up.
This is a soundtrack film and like our own lives music fills in the gaps.
Nothing about the film is normal or mundane. Its less a movie, much
more a work of art or the equivalent of a fat novel dealing with loneliness,
longing and anger, broken love affairs and promises, pathos and all those
weird Ripley moments in life that defy belief. Coincidences
that seem to be too fantastic to be true, but are and like Aimees
song Momentum, characters are all very aware of all
those minutes and days and hours I have frittered away.
Scenes have been constructed around her lyrics. Now that Ive
met you, would you object to never seeing each other again? Its
the first line in Deathly but its the last line in a
weird coming together of a coke-addict (sexually molested young woman)
and a clumsy, single, Christian cop who has fallen for her.
The whole film is about miscommunications, mistimings, missed opportunities
and regret and it is all the more real and anquished because of it. My
young niece Tabitha who came with me to see it reacted differently to
me, Why are all these women such losers? Dont the men feel
Well they do, but they act on it in differering ways. Tom Cruise plays
an angry man with a how to get a woman video to sell. TAME
HER, make her obey to your every whim. He teaches pathetic men to hate
women, use them and abuse them, before they abuse you and you wonder what
made him hate women so bad.
William H Macy is a former child quiz champion who is down on his luck
bug time and life has been a constant downward spiral ever since his folks
stole his Quiz Show winnings. Hes so in love with a hunk of a barman,
he wants to get braces to look like him. Hes prepared to steal to
the get the money to pay for it.
Julliete Moore is married to a dying man, played by Jason Robards. A man
who has been a complete selfish bastard all his life, who abandoned his
son and wife, left the boy to care for a woman who was dying of cancer.
The new wife married him for money, now as he is dying, she has discovered
that she loves him, loves him enough to want to end her own life. Theres
theres the new quiz kid Donny who is a big swot with another careless
exploitative father and somehow, the cop, the addict, the TV Quiz show,
the woman hater, the dying man and the former quiz kid are all intractably
Aimee Mann sings Save me, you will come to save me, why dont
you save me and these people do need saving, mostly from themselves.
The music, not only Aimee Manns, is so intertextualised that it
cannot be separated from the visuals. P.T. Andersen lulls you and pummels
you with it and here is a filmmaker growing in stature before our eyes,
demonstrating that if film is to survive in the 21st Century it has to
be more like this, shattering your expectations and exploding your emotions.
When surprises do come (watch out for the the frogs) its no small
effort but a miracle, a deluge, an endpiece so fantastic it shocks you
and rivets you to your seat. It makes you laugh out loud with pure astonishment.
The cast sing, its Not going to Stop until you wise up
and if there is a message, I guess this is it. Magnolia is long, over
3 hours and always magnificent. Only a few cinemas took it, which is astonishing
considering how good it is, but if you can find it on DVD now, so buy
If you have to see it on video, see it on widescreen and stereo. By all
means buy the two Magnolia C.D.s (one the vocal tracks by Aimee Mann,
the other the music sound track, check carefully before you buy if you
want the Aimee Mann songs).
Magnolia CD ISBN 09362 47583 2 7
© Sam North
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