Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Magnolia is a 1999 motion picture, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson that tells the story of a peculiar interaction among several individuals during one apparently normal day in the San Fernando Valley, California, interweaving nine separate, yet connected storylines. Magnolia was self-consciously produced in a style quite far from what is currently common in mainstream Hollywood films, notably having heavy independent film influences; however, it is not itself truly an independent film, having been financed by New Line Cinema.
It stars Julianne Moore, Jason Robards, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Luis Guzmán, Philip Baker Hall, April Grace , Ricky Jay, Orlando Jones, William H. Macy, Alfred Molina, Jeremy Blackman , Michael Murphy , John C. Reilly, Melinda Dillon , Melora Walters , Michael Bowen , Thomas Jane and Felicity Huffman. The length of the film is 188 minutes.
Magnolia starts with an intro describing three factual events which set the mood for the movie by urging the audience to think about supposed coincidences which occur "all the time". The events are:
- Sir Edmund William Godfrey, a resident of Greenberry Hill , London, UK, is murdered by three vagrants by the names Joseph Green, Stanley Berry, and Daniel Hill.
- A scuba diver, Delmer Darion , dies of a heart attack when he is accidentally picked up by a firefighting airplane scooping water to put out a forest fire. The pilot of the plane, Craig Hansen, had met Darion a few days prior at the casino where he worked as a blackjack dealer, and had started a fight with him. The guilt and the measure of coincidence caused the pilot to commit suicide.
- A 17 year old boy, Sydney Barringer, whose attempted suicide by jumping off the roof of his apartment building became a "successful homicide" when he was accidentally shot by his mother as he fell past his own apartment window. His parents regularly argued and threatened each other with a shotgun, which was not normally kept loaded. Sydney had loaded the gun a few days prior so that his parents would make good on their threats to kill each other, and in doing so, unwittingly became an accomplice in his own murder.
The movie then goes on to introduce the main characters:
- Frank T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise), author of "Seduce and Destroy", a self-help system for men to get women to sleep with them.
- Linda Partridge (Julianne Moore), a woman dealing with her husband's terminal illness and feelings of guilt for her infidelity.
- "Quiz Kid" Donnie Smith (William H. Macy), who won a large sum of money on the television game show What Do Kids Know? in the 1970s, but whose life has gone downhill since then.
- Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman ), a current contestant on What Do Kids Know?
- Phil Parma (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a nurse working for the terminally ill Earl Partridge.
- Claudia Wilson Gator (Melora Walters ), daughter of Jimmy Gator, who is independently wealthy, plagued by psychological problems, and addicted to cocaine.
- Jimmy Gator (Phillip Baker Hall ), host of What Do Kids Know?.
- Earl Partridge (Jason Robards), a wealthy television producer with terminal lung cancer.
- Officer Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly), a divorced and lonely police officer.
The characters are interesting in and of themselves, but the movie is more about the connections between the characters:
|Frank||Earl is Frank's estranged father||Both are estranged from their fathers||Phil must find Frank to reunite him with his father||Both have been wronged by their parents||Linda hates Frank because his chauvinism reminds her of a part of Earl she would rather deny|
|Linda||Earl is Linda's husband, both have been unfaithful (Linda to Earl and Earl to his first wife)||Both make admissions of infidelity||Both abuse drugs and suffer from psychological problems||Linda employs Phil to take care of Earl||Both suffer emotional outbursts|
|Donnie||Both are lonely and desperately seeking love||Donnie was a contestant on Jimmy's show in the 70s||Both have a persecution complex||Both are "quiz kids" who feel unappreciated by their parents|
|Stanley||Both feel like outcasts, Stanley from his teammates and Jim from his co-workers||Stanley is a contestant on Jimmy's show|
|Phil||Both have had bad luck with dating, both use their jobs to fill their loneliness||Phil is Earl's nurse|
|Claudia||Jim goes to Claudia's apartment to check out a disturbance, and eventually asks her out on a date||Jimmy is Claudia's estranged father|
|Jimmy||Earl is the executive producer of Jimmy's show, both are dying of cancer|
|Earl||Both had a troubled first marriage|
The plot reveals all these relationships over a number of interlocking events, including:
- A crime that investigators think was committed by the Worm (played by Orlando Jones in scenes that were deleted).
- The filming of an episode of What Do Kids Know?, a general knowledge game show that pits children against adults.
- A noise complaint that leads to an awkward conversation, and eventually a date between Jim and Claudia.
- Donnie's attempt to woo a braces-wearing bartender, Brad. His love for him results in an attempt to steal money from the employer who fired him to pay for braces that he does not need.
- An interview in which a reporter attempts to break inside the emotional wall that Frank hides behind.
- The last hours of Earl, which complicate Linda's life with a number of vital decisions and in which a desperate Phil attempts to fulfil Earl's wish to see the son that disowned him, Frank.
At the end of the movie, an unlikely event occurs - frogs rain from the sky. While the plague of frogs is unexpected, it is explainable. Earlier, a boy named Dixon tells Jim that "when the sunshine don't work, the good Lord bring the rain in." A Bible verse frequently referenced and alluded to in the film, Exodus 8:2, states that "if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs." Many of the film's other strange occurrences (such as quotes that seem odd or out of place) can be explained (see the link to Cigarettes and Coffee's Magnolia page below for more information).
The movie ends with the narrator urging the audience to think again about the coincidences mentioned in the intro, implying that the unlikely connections between the characters in the movie are similar.
Magnolia is a thematically rich film. Many essays and other writings have been composed on it. Some themes that are often associated with the film include:
- Not all events and their results can be controlled, but an individual can control his own actions.
- Mistakes of the past cannot simply be erased (We might be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us).
Two songs were written expressly for the film: "You Do," which was based on a character later cut from the film, and "Save Me," which closes the film; the latter was nominated in the 2000 Academy Awards and Golden Globes and in the 2001 Grammys. Most of the remaining seven Mann songs were demos and works in progress; "Wise Up," which is at the center of a sequence in which all of the characters sing the song, was originally written for the 1996 film Jerry Maguire.
Anderson produced a music video for "Save Me" that featured Mann in the background of what appeared to be scenes from the film, singing to characters. There was no digital manipulation involved; the video was shot at the end of filming days with Mann and actors who were asked to stay in place. The video won the Best Editing award at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards and was nominated for Best Music Video from a Film.
The soundtrack album, released in December 1999 on Reprise Records, features the Mann songs, as well as a section of Jon Brion's score and tracks by Supertramp and Gabrielle that were used in the film. Reprise released a full score album in March 2000.
The Magnolia DVD includes a behind-the-scenes documentary, That Moment. This documentary is one of the most extensive ever written about a single motion picture; it is about an hour and a half long and covers nearly every aspect of production, from production management and scheduling to music direction to special effects. As Magnolia is probably Paul Thomas Anderson's most ambitious work, the behind-the-scenes documentary is also an in-depth look into his motivation and directing style.
- Nominated, Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Tom Cruise
- Nominated, Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen: Paul Thomas Anderson
- Nominated, Best Music, Song: Aimee Mann, for the song "Save Me"
2000 Golden Globe Awards
- Won, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Tom Cruise
- Nominated, Best Original Song - Motion Picture: Aimee Mann, for the song "Save Me"
2000 Berlin Film Festival
- Won, Golden Bear: Paul Thomas Anderson
2001 Grammy Awards
- Nominated, Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media: Aimee Mann, for the song "Save Me"
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