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Volume 2, Issue 3                                    University of Houston

Magnolia gives 'oddity' a new definition


Magnolia

Starring: Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy
Rating: R
Running Time: 179 minutes

Grade: A


By Rattaya Nimibutr
Staff Writer

Paul Thomas Anderson, the writer and director of Boogie Nights, returns to the screen with Magnolia, bringing along a story about interconnected lives that are fragile, flawed and magnificently realistic.

Know-it-all male chauvinist Frank Mackey (Tom Cruise) holds seminars to teach men to lead better sex lives. His male-on-female philosophy is depicted in his seminars, and he seems to be the answer to the poster male of the '90s.

Donnie Smith (William H. Macy), a former child prodigy, works at an appliance store. He has reached his midlife crisis, and his routine work is not what he'd dreamed of doing as a child. He longs for love, but his role in society seems to be insignificant.

Officer Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly) is an officer because that is all he knows. Then he meets Claudia Gator (Melora Walters), a coke addict whose fragility both horrifies and touches him. 

Julianne Moore (Boogie Nights) is Linda Partridge, whose understanding of her husband's love came too late. Moore portrays a tough woman with latent vulnerability.

These are a just a few of the characters whose lives become interwoven in Magnolia. The pool of characters Anderson has dug up fill the niches of human life. Every possible emotion has been sunk into at least one role and every possible desire has been explored within each character.

Photo By Peter Sorel/New Line Cinema


Tom Cruise may be on his way to an Oscar nomination with his performance of Frank T.J. Mackey, a character who holds seminars to teach men to lead better sex lives in Magnolia.

Anderson does not leave out any intimate or risky dramatic situations. He goes into the characters' inner needs and desires and brings them out in such a way that makes their flaws seem beautiful.

The various characters eventually connect through a psychological connection that shares the meaning of human life. Anderson does not flatly present these people's lives. He allows the actors to fully explore and develop their characters within their own boundaries and through their actions.

Magnolia expands the boundaries of cinema. It offers hope for those who may feel a connection to these characters. It brings out the flaws in humanity and toys with them in a way that makes you think about your daily decisions. Anderson is successful in pointing out people's mistakes and he does it in the most intriguing ways.

Though there is an Oscar buzz for Cruise, whose portrayal of Mackey is one of his best, the rest of the cast is also fascinating.

Perhaps the only objection to the film is that movie-goers have to sit in their seats for three hours and 10 minutes. Despite the length, the effort and time spent to create unity between the characters was well worth it. If it were any shorter, Magnolia would still have its spark, but may have lost the intangible emotions it contains.

Magnolia is a wonderfully paced film that provides a new definition of oddity. With a beautiful and talented cast, well written dialogue and Anderson summing up his entire perspective of life in three hours, it's a film to be talked about.
 

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