Column: ‘Magnolia’ is a long, emotional journey

Adam Tumino

Two weeks ago I wrote about the 1997 Paul Thomas Anderson movie “Boogie Nights,” which is perhaps my favorite movie.

But Anderson’s follow-up film, 1999’s “Magnolia,” actually is superior to “Boogie Nights” in many ways and was the final of three movies that Anderson made before turning 30, establishing himself as a stunning filmmaker early on.

“Magnolia” opens with a brief, documentary-style introduction about urban legends and strange occurrences before launching into multiple story lines following a collection of people in California’s San Fernando Valley.

The story lines occasionally overlap, sometimes in major ways and sometimes subtly, and a few seem to be connected only by the emotions of the characters.

There is a young game show contestant being pressured by his father to win. There is a former contestant from the same game show, now middle-aged, who is has been having financial trouble after his parents blew all of his prize money.

There is the host of the game show who is dying of cancer, his daughter struggling with drug addiction and the police officer who falls in love with her without realizing what she is going through.

The show’s former producer, now an old man, is also dying of cancer and his younger wife is struggling to deal with his eminent death. There is also his estranged son, who has channeled childhood trauma into a program where he teaches men how to seduce and dominate women and the female TV host who tries to bring his sexist empire down.

The old man also has a hops-ice nurse who sits with him during his final hours. The nurse tries to fulfill the old man’s dying wish by reuniting him with his son.

The cast is remarkable, featuring high-caliber actors like Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Reilly, Philip Baker Hall, Jason Robards, Tom Cruise, and William H. Macy.

Robards and Moore have monologues that are incredibly powerful and Cruise does perhaps the best acting of his career.

As their story lines advance through the film, there is an incredible amount of suspense and tension that builds throughout the movie’s three-hour run time until it seems like the characters are all going to explode.

The Anderson’s screenplay reaches a stunning  and absolutely unpredictable climax that wraps everything up.

“Magnolia” is not an easy watch due to its very long run time and heavy emotions, but it provides a cinematic experience unlike any other movie that I can think of.


Adam Tumino is a senior journalism major. He can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]