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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Magnolia (1999)



Reviews and Comments

Magnolia is moving, sweet, abrasive, repugnant, heartbreaking, and surprising, all at the same time. I could have done without one or two of the characters (most notably Tom Cruise's, which is a little too loathsome and not as believable as the other characters), but never is there a moment when the drama is not absolutely engrossing. It's an interlocking frame tale by director Paul Thomas Anderson. The cast is strong and diverse; besides Cruise, it includes Philip Baker Hall, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Reilly, and William H. Macy, and the film marks the last theatrical appearance of Jason Robards. Collectively, the stories study a vicious cycle: people transgress because in the past they were transgressed upon, and by the time they seek to make amends for those transgressions, the cycle is already in motion for the next generation. Not a reassuring phenomenon, but is there a more pressing concern of the human soul than the seeking of redemption?

The end of the film has generated much debate about what it signifies. (My vote? God's way of saying, "Enough.") In case you haven't heard about it, I wouldn't dream of telling you, and if you intend to see the movie, you should see it without reading any other reviews. Suffice it to say that the sound effects (as well as the visuals) have the ring of perfection.