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The most beautiful film I saw in the year 2000, Magnolia is a sprawling tale of human interaction that encompasses many intriguing characters—some of whom you will identify with more strongly than others—from the remorseful father on his death bed, to the boy genius struggling against his loss of identity, to the ex boy genius who just wants to love and be loved.



It would be easy to get carried away and write pages on the emotions that I experienced whilst watching Magnolia, but in the end it would not serve to fully explain the film. I’m sure everyone will take something different from it, and will identify very closely with at least one of the characters. At approximately three hours in length Magnolia can seem a tad too lengthy at times, but I cannot for one instant think of any part of this film that I would want to remove. I enjoyed P T Anderson’s previous film, Boogie Nights, very much and will certainly be revisiting it after Magnolia (not to mention his first feature Hard Eight—a.k.a. Sydney—which is a minor masterpiece).

Much has been made of Tom Cruise’s performance, and while it may be one of his better on-screen appearances he in no way steals the show. In fact, I can think a at least three actors who do a far better job than Cruise in their roles, including Melora Walters as a very disturbed young lady, Philip Seymour Hoffman as a male nurse and Julianne Moore as an estranged wife who is trying to come to terms with her husband’s imminent death. That said, the whole cast is magnificent. William H. Macy is fantastic as ‘Quiz Kid Donny Smith’, Jeremy Blackman is very promising as the young Stanley Specter, and John C. Reiley is great in his role as the cop (he really manages to nail that condescending attitude). Oh, and Philip Baker Hall is awesome as Jimmy Gator, the quiz show host and father who has been harbouring a dark secret.



The disc features an excellent anamorphic transfer, presented at its theatrical ratio of 2.35:1. It really shows the stunning vision of director P T Anderson to its full effect. The print is very clean, very sharp and is among the better transfers I’ve seen on DVD. This is not really surprising, as the film is relatively new, but it’s still a pleasure to watch a film that looks as good as Magnolia does.


The audio is equally as accomplished, with a brilliant Dolby Digital soundtrack. The music of Aimee Mann is a fantastic accompaniment to the on-screen narrative; from the opening number ‘One’, to the hauntingly beautiful ‘Wise Up’. The centre channel is clear, essential for such a dialogue-intensive film, except for in instances when the score is intentionally allowed to drown out the actors to enhance the emotional impact. Good use of the surrounds during key sequences makes this a very pleasant listening experience all round. Word has it that Anderson wrote the film around the music, rather than the traditional way of writing music for the film.



The second disc includes a plethora of extra features. Included are the full versions of the Frank T J Mackay infomercial and seminar, along with the theatrical and teaser trailers. We are also treated to various TV spots, in which the various characters introduce themselves, an Aimee Mann music video (featuring most of the cast) and a seventy-five minute long featurette called the ‘Magnolia Diary’. Basically this is P T Anderson’s video diary of the making the movie and it contains some great insights. It does have a lot to cram into a relatively short running time, but it does a good job. There are also some colour bars to help calibrate your display, which contain an amusing Easter egg in the form of some outtakes (Tom Cruise totally falling to pieces during an emotional scene etc). The one thing that’s missing is an audio commentary. Anderson’s other commentaries are great, and really give an insight into the process of filmmaking. Maybe we’ll get one on the ‘Special Edition’, eh?


Magnolia is not quite up there with Fight Club or The Shawshank Redemption in my list of all-time favourites, but its not too far behind. It may take repeated viewings to glean everything that can be gleaned from Magnolia, but it is well worth the time invested. Fantastic stuff.