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Magnolia
USA 1999
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Running time 185 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars


This taxingly long but engrossing film, also scripted by director Paul Thomas Anderson, is very near outstanding, particularly when considered against usual Hollywood fare although the conventions of mainstream American film-making do in some respects overwhelm what might otherwise have been a more emotionally-affecting experience.

Tracking the messed-up lives of a disparate group of people over a 24 hour period, the fragmented narrative will not please everybody but the skilful story construction, excellent cinematography (by Robert Elswit who also did Anderson's previous films, Hard Eight and Boogie Nights, both 1997), and a tip-top cast (many of them reunited from the Boogie Nights) reward the nigh-on 3 hour investment required.

Tom Cruise won a Golden Globe for his role and was nominated for an Oscar but for me he was the weak spot (who wrings their hands these days?) even more so as the large amount of screen time given to his aggressively misogynistic character doesn't appear to have a pay-off at any level. There are those also who may wonder why this cleverly-constructed tableau, powerfully supported by Jon Brion's evocative score and Aimee Mann's songs, didn't leaven proceedings with a thread or two of a more colourful hue, thus giving a more rounded and possibly more satisfying image of the simultaneity of life.

Nevertheless, the suitably apocalyptic storm of frogs at the end of the film is a cracker sequence and probably Anderson  decided that a rainbow breaking through that would have been just too cheesy. 

 

 

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