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Kim Ann Knight RSS Feed (Albany, CA United States)

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Magnolia (New Line Platinum Series)
Magnolia (New Line Platinum Series)
DVD ~ Michael Bowen
Price: $11.79
161 used & new from $2.57

73 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars my kind of romance film, July 11, 2000
I work at one of the few theaters which had the opportunity to play the new film by writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson: Magnolia. When selling tickets and people ask me, "what is this Magnolia movie about?" I reply, "It's a story of chance and coincidence in the San Fernando Valley with a romance at its heart." This is rather vague and broad, but it is intriguing to the moviegoers. I do warn them that Tom Cruise's character, Frank T.J. Mackey, has some very graphic and harsh dialogue, and that the running time is long, but I would say that ninety percent of the audience walks out happy having seen such a beautiful film.
The film follows eleven characters through one rainy day which culminates in a sequence so forceful that you feel just as physically and mentally drained as those inside the celluloid. The eleven characters all branch off from an old man dying of cancer named Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) who lays in a bed through the whole movie. He is married to Linda (Julianne Moore) and is looked after by nurse Phil Parma (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). Earl's last wish is to speak with his son, Frank (Cruise).
Earl is also the executive producer of "the longest running quiz show on television: What Do Kids Know?" The TV game show is at an exciting point in its run for a new group of "Kids" led by Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman) is close to breaking the record for consecutive wins held by former quiz kid Donnie Smith (William H. Macy). Jimmy Gator (Phillip Baker Hall) is the host who is also dying of cancer. He has a wife, Rose (Melinda Dillon), and an estranged daughter of his own: Claudia (Melora Walters).
Claudia is addicted to cocaine and listens to her music way too loud. Her neighbors call the cops and Officer Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly) is sent to her door and they subsequently flirt which leads to a date. It is their romance which I feel is central to the film.
The eleventh character does not have nearly as much screen time as the previous ten, but is the most important character of all. He is Dixon (Emmanuel Johnson), the candy selling, ten year old "rapper" who drops clues as to what might happen in an early freestyle flow.
What does happen is a painfully brilliant and heartbreaking story of love, coincidence and redemption. There are many double stories like in King Lear: the two dying fathers with estranged children; both fathers have people who work for them who love them even more than their own family; we also see the young and old versions of a child genius showing how the present parental mistreating will affect him in the future; and there is a set of designated caregivers (the cop and the nurse), who echos Lear's fool.
The whole film is told through constant cross cutting between stories and interactions. For the first two thirds of the film there is always some form of music the pictures are set to, be it the score or rock songs. The director has learned a lot of his show-offy technique from Martin Scorsese and Robert Altman; he has Scorsese's eye and ear for mood setting music and Altman's grand scope and vision-a great foundation for a director. In his previous film, Boogie Nights, the director just seemed to be quoting those two, but in this present film, he has found his own style and rhythm. His ear for dialogue is great, he elicits great performances from his actors and knows how to make every minute count. A running time of 180 minutes is pretty steep but it flew right by. And if asked, I would not know where to cut the film. Paul Thomas Anderson is completely enamored with everything in this film-his story, his actors and his own filmmaking (the camera in particular).
Roger Ebert refers to the movie as "operatic." I can see where he is coming from, its ambition and length are operatic and there is the incessant use of music in the background, sometimes drowning out the dialogue so we only hear phrases and have to read lips. I would refer to the film as rhapsodic, ecstatic in the act of filmmaking and storytelling, coming to peaks just short enough not to peak too early and eventually reaching the ultimate climax like a great jazz song. All this to tell us you can't really plan ahead because you don't know what will happen. It also reminds us that sometimes plans work out and you should just go with it like when Claudia kisses Jim upon returning from the bathroom and said, "I'm glad I did that, I needed to do that."
I'm glad Mr. Anderson make this film. It showed me that I should remember the small things, that love isn't as hard as it may seem to find, and that I need to know somebody loves me back and I should accept their love. This may sound like the lovelorn teenager in me, but I feel it to be true. This is my kind of romance film.

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