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Magnolia (1999)


Things fall down. People look up. And when it rains, it pours.

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 180 minutes

UK Certificate: 18


‘Magnolia’ is an extremely tiring film to watch – but that shouldn’t be confused with being tiresome. Running at a jaw-dropping three hours, it requires patience, endurance, and probably also a fairly uneventful social life. And I’d love to say the eventual pay-off guarantees a feeling that it was all worth it, but in reality there would be many who’d disagree.

It’s an epic tale of nothing in particular, taking snapshots of the lives of at least nine key characters (among them lank-haired sex preacher Tom Cruise, tragic failed child star William H. Macy and chubby moustachioed copper John C. Reilly). Each of them live in the San Fernando Valley, none of them seem particularly cheery in their own lives (let’s face it, who is?), and all of them are linked to each other – though some through stronger connections than others.

Written and directed by ‘Boogie Nights’ helmsman Paul Thomas Anderson (who would go on to make the superior – and shorter – ‘Punch Drunk Love’), ‘Magnolia’ is certainly an ambitious project, though perhaps not as original as it aspires to be. After all, ensemble pieces featuring the individual stories of intertwining lives aren’t exactly scarce on the ground – ‘Pulp Fiction’ is probably the most obvious example, but there are many, many others.

Anderson does a remarkable job of covering up the fact that his story lacks real substance, using tricks such as a constantly moving camera and an increasingly-intrusive score to make things feel a lot more tense than they actually are. Stripped of those touches, the fact is that there’s often not a lot happening here – and, because of that, there simply is no reason on Earth for it to be as long as it is.

So ‘Magnolia’s main downfall is also the one thing that it stands out most for – its crippling self-indulgence. This is an extremely well-acted film, and Anderson is a fine director, but it’s just too wrapped up in its own art to be considered a genuine classic. There’s no doubting that it’s a fascinating piece of work, and for that reason alone I’d recommend everyone at least give it a go – but it’s not the life-changer it’s clearly trying so hard to be. Perhaps it’s just trying TOO hard.

It's Got: Raining frogs.

It Needs: An industrial-strength umbrella.

DVD Extras Disc 2 contains a whole host of featurettes (most notably a full ‘Seduce And Destroy’ seminar from Tom Cruise), several trailers, TV Spots, a music vid, cast diaries, and production notes. DVD Extras Rating: 7/10


I’m not saying this is a long film, but you could watch ‘Weekend At Bernie’s’ TWICE in an equivalent amount of time. Nuff said.