A Film for January: Magnolia

January’s been a funny month. For the first time I couldn’t finish either my Classics Challenge read or this months film and I think in a way The Sound and the Fury and Magnolia have a lot in common. Both are multilayered with each characters story told in their own style as they interweave with each other. Usually I would say this is a style I enjoy, but not this time I’m afraid.

Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Magnolia has a large ensemble cast that includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore and William H. Macy who create a mosaic of interrelated stories centred around their connection to Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) a big shot tv producer, who lies in bed about to die.

Julianne Moore plays his wife Linda raging with raw anger and Tom Cruise his estranged son Frank Mackey; a motivational speaker giving a series of sex advice seminars to single men entitled ‘Seduce and Destroy’. His evangelical strutting and posturing made me feel as offended as I was supposed to and gave his sinister line to a female journalist, ‘I’m quietly judging you’ a horribly chilling resonance.

Big Earl Partridge Productions has a long running general quiz show ‘What Do Kids Know’, fronted by Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall) who also has only months to live and has an estranged daughter Claudia (Melora Walters), a vulnerable young women dealing with addiction and trying to get her life together. A young contestant on the show, Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman) and his father Rick (Michael Bowen) provide a third parent/child relationship and Stanley, the only character I felt any real compassion for. At the start of the show he desperately wants to go to the bathroom but isn’t allowed because it will get in the way of filming, as he becomes more and more uncomfortable his ability to answer questions stops; his father meanwhile is shouting and screaming at him backstage thinking that the intense pressure he puts on his son can be redeemed with a quick ‘I love you’ at the end of a sentence.

I know that Magnolia has legions of fans and is rated highly for its boldness and originality among many other things but like The Sound and the Fury I found that these fractured lives interwoven with rage and unhappiness formed a whole that was too dark and bitter for me.

11 thoughts on “A Film for January: Magnolia

  1. What a pity because the cast sounds wonderful! Haha, I have a gif of Tom Cruise saying “I’m quietly judging you” and never knew what film it came from – I shall think differently about it next time I use it! I do like the idea of him giving “Seduce and Destroy” lessons, though I’d only go to the first class – the one where he does the seducing part… 😉

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    1. Hooray, what a discovery! It is a wonderful cast and I think it’s just me wanting everything to be cosy, give it a go – then you can see Tom actually saying the line! It’s on Amazon Prime.

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  2. Oh no! I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy this film. It’s one of my favourites, not least for the mosaic of stories. Nevertheless, I can see why the tone might not be for everyone….

    What do you have coming up for February? Something more engaging, I hope!

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    1. It was just too much shouting at the moment Jacqui! I’m glad you like it, it does have a great cast and I can appreciate getting involved in the different stories (the one I’m most curious about is the one time child protege), it just wasn’t the right time.

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    2. I also love Magnolia. I watched it at a time when I was realising how much I loved film and all the different ways that movies can be great. Magnolia has a fantastic cast and it is indeed dark, but I didn’t find it too dark, thanks to the injections of humour within the darkness. Nevertheless, I don’t know that I’d recommend watching it during such challenging times.

      ‘Chaos masterfully organised’ is the phrase that comes to mind when I think of this movie. That, and:
      ‘Denise, Denise, Denise the piece,’ as well as a few more unsavoury Frank quotes. There’s also the choice words uttered by Julianne Moore’s character at the pharmacy.

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      1. Ah yes the pharmacy scene, that’s the scene I was thinking about when I called it raw! ‘chaos masterfully organised’ is a good description but just not at the moment, I’ll choose another time and try again!

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  3. I’ve just looked at a clip – I know, not a good way to judge a film… But from the little I saw, and the summary you’ve given, it wouldn’t be my choice at the moment, either. Hope you soon find some reading and watching that work.

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