A collusion of coincidence, chance, human action, past history and divine intervention. It is a story about putting things right again.
-Movie Review by David Bruce

This page was last updated on May 22, 2005

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Writing credit: Paul Thomas Anderson

William H. Macy as 'Wiz Kid' Donnie Smith
Julianne Moore as Linda Partridge
Ezra Buzzington as Pedestrian
William R. Mapother as Technical Director
Jim Beaver as Jim
Jeremy Blackman as The Boy Genius
Michael Bowen as The Boy Genius' Father
Tom Cruise as Frank T.J. Mackey
Melinda Dillon as The Mother
Henry Gibson as Thurston Howell
April Grace
Luis Guzmán as Luis Guzman
Philip Baker Hall as Jimmy Gator
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Phil Parmer
Felicity Huffman as Cynthia

MPAA: Rated R for strong language, drug use, sexuality and some violence.
     On one random day in the San Fernando Valley, a dying father, a young wife, a male caretaker, a famous lost son, a police officer in love, a boy genius , an ex-boy genius, a game show host and an estranged daughter will each become part of a dazzling multiplicity of plots, but one story.

Through a collusion of coincidence, chance, human action, shared media, past history and divine intervention they will weave and warp through each other's lives on a day that builds to an unforgettable climax. Some will seek forgiveness, others escape. Some will mend frayed bonds, others will be exposed.

Magnolia is a mosaic of American life woven through a series of comic and poignant vignettes. It is a portrait of a lonely city sometimes called up short on love. It is a personal exploration of the hidden elements of crisis. It is a story about putting things right again.
Life and God interact.
David Bruce
A collusion of coincidence, chance, human action, past history and divine intervention. It is a story about putting things right again.
-Review by David Bruce
There are few films that make me pull aside and ponder afterwards. This one did. In fact, I got a cup of coffee, found a private table in a San Francisco restaurant and just thought about what I had seen. I must say, this is one of the most incredible films I have ever seen.

None of the characters are what they seem. Take for example, the Tom Cruise character, Frank Mackey, who is first presented to us as a fatherless male misogynist who makes money teaching lonely men how to "Seduce and Destroy" women. Just as he comes off as a real woman hater, the movie totally reverses his character, and reveals him to be someone totally opposite. The film does this role reversal in a unique way. --After doing a partial strip tease for a woman reporter, he dresses, and then, she proceeds to strip Mackey totally emotionally bare with her probing interview--. And in so doing, we are introduced to a man who instead hates men (especially his father) and cares very deeply about women (especially his late mother and his boyhood guardian, Mrs. Mackey).

Throughout the entire picture we witness many such reversals set in a collusion of coincidence, chance, human action, past history and divine intervention. It is a story about putting things right again. About seeking forgiveness and redemption.

At the center of the Magnolia maze of interconnections is Earl Partridge, a dying man who is coming to terms with the failures of his life in his final moments. Robards was struck by the material´s veracity. "I was taken aback by the script because it is so
honest about the human condition, about estrangement and relationships with parents and even death... It was just a slice of the life we live nowadays."

The one thing that Earl Partridge wants before he dies is to see his estranged son, Frank T. J. Mackey, who has followed his father's footsteps into the television world, albeit in a very different way. Frank T. J. Mackey is the Tony Robbins of seduction, a sort of Bad Boy Wonder, a grin-flashing charmer who sells popular, high-priced seminars that teach men how to get their way with women.

In love with Earl Partridge is his young wife Linda, which comes as a shock to her, years after marrying the man strictly for his money. Now, the nerve-wracked Linda is a prisoner to pharmaceuticals as she searches her soul for how to right the wrongs she has committed in her marriage.

Part of the trick for Moore in Magnolia is playing a character who "is hysterical throughout half the movie." Moore wanted to move beyond surface sentimentality with the character, to "make her really, really human," she says. "You know, this is a woman who on the outside has everything, the big diamond rings and the fur coat, but she has thrown out everything spiritual. Now, at the final moment, she realizes she is going to be left alone, that she really doesn't have anything, and that she's made some very bad choices."

Why does it have to take the crisis of cancer and death to get the attention of these self-centered individuals to care for each other? All three have been hiding the fact they they need each other. They resist what they need --a loving family relationship. Their resistance is the real cancer that is eating them up.

Earl Partridge produces a popular television Quiz, "What Do Kids Know?" hosted by Jimmy Gator. Despite being one of America's most wholesome TV icons, the truth of Jimmy's private life would obliterate his image. Philip Baker Hall, who won critical admiration for his role as a gambler seeking redemption in Hard Eight, portrays Jimmy Gator as a man whose electronic façade is being quickly erased.

Explains Hall: "Jimmy has ridiculed people and trampled on people all his life, but he has the public persona of being a kind and amiable father figure, full of good television cheer. Now that he's facing the end of his life (cancer), he's being asked questions he can't answer. He's got like 12 hours to make 60 years right, to try to come to terms with his regrets and find forgiveness from his daughter."

In this cadre of lost souls, Claudia may well be the most outwardly lost. Again the film surprises us. Claudia seems to be the problem, a drug taking prodigal daughter. But, then we are thrown into another reversal. We come to see her as the victim of a prodigal father. She is on drugs trying to forget the past sin of her father.

"I was scared of this role," admits Walters, "because of what I knew I would have to tap into to be Claudia. I really had to get into a place where every moment felt like it was a life or death moment... I think one of the things that (writer/director) Paul has is this amazing ability to really look at what makes people operate, what makes things happen, how choices are made and how they affect your life and everybody around you."

"What Do Kids Know?" has made young Stanley Spector into a pre-adolescent television hero. A child genius driven by an insatiable thirst for knowledge, Stanley can answer any factual question. But the answers to why his father won't love him evade him. "Stanley's already a genius, but I think his life would be a lot better if he had more freedom, if his father let him express himself more. I think Stanley has a good heart but right now he's in the middle of a crisis," says the child actor, Blackman.

Stanley Spector´s troubles echo those of Donnie Smith, who once upon a time was a famous quiz kid for a few glorious moments before speeding off into obscurity, absurdities and obsessions in a hole-in-the-wall bar.

Ultimately this is a story about "the sins of the father" being visited on their children. In fact, if you listen closely during the movie you will hear this Bible verse quoted.

LAPD officer Jim Kurring is a bottom-of-the-pack Los Angeles cop whose primary impulse is to help other people.

Says Reilly of his reaction to the script: "I had a really emotional response to it. I think Paul has a remarkable ability for capturing the little human details of life and at the same time presenting a very big perspective on humanity at large. Its the perfect kind of millennial movie I think, an intense investigation into what really drives us and the distance between who we think we are and who we really are."

The films ends with an apocalyptic rain of frogs! This is the divine intervention moment into the story. Each character has made choices, mostly poor choices, but human destiny is not just the product of an individual's choice, it is a combination of many people's choices crashing together with God's hand in the mix. The movie ends with an amazing intervention of God while Aimee Mann's song, "Save Me", is played in the background. Powerful.

The nine interdependent plot lines of Magnolia are set to a soundtrack of songs by Aimee Mann, whose music becomes part of the warp and weave of the film. Paul Thomas Anderson had met Mann through her husband, Michael Penn, who did the score for Boogie Nights and Hard Eight, then, while writing Magnolia was particularly inspired by her song "Wise Up." Hoping to entice Mann to write more songs for the film, he sent her the script. "I usually have a hard time reading scripts, but this was different," she says. "It was so ambitious, with so many stories, but I had total faith in Paul that he could do it."

Mann's songs fit into the intimate style of Magnolia. "I look for lyrics that celebrate language and say something in a really interesting and personal way," she states. "I'm attracted to writing about people who have the same kind of thematic threads running through their lives - because they are themes that are running through a lot of our lives. And I think that's true of Magnolia as well."

Even as Paul Thomas Anderson was completing the Magnolia script, Mann was writing the film's end-title song, "Save Me," her music becoming part and parcel of the film's creative process.


The Bible mentions in Exodus 34:7 about "visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation." But, it also reminds us that God is "keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.."
. American families have suffered from a lack of responsible fatherhood. Study after study reveals that children do best in two parent families. This film reflects this reality.

Children can reverse the effects of the sins of their parents however. In Ezekiel 18 we read: " 'What?' you ask. 'Doesn't the child pay for the parent's sins?' No! For if the child does what is right and keeps my laws, that child will surely live. The one who sins is the one who dies. The child will not be punished for the parent's sins, and the parent will not be punished for the child's sins. Righteous people will be rewarded for their own goodness, and wicked people will be punished for their own wickedness...
"Do you think, asks the Sovereign Lord, that I like to see wicked people die? Of course not! I only want them to turn from their wicked ways and live. However, if righteous people turn to sinful ways and start acting like other sinners, should they be allowed to live? No, of course not! All their previous goodness will be forgotten, and they will die for their sins...
"Therefore, I will judge each of you... according to your actions, says the Sovereign Lord. Turn from your sins! Don't let them destroy you! Put all your rebellion behind you, and get for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die... I don't want you to die, says the Sovereign Lord. Turn back and live!
(condensed from the New Living Translation)


Trying to broker a meeting between Earl Partridge and Frank Mackey is Partridge´s devoted male nurse Phil Parma, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who came to the fore in Anderson´s Hard Eight and Boogie Nights. Hoffman offers a surprising portrait of an emotionally involved caretaker who is as desperate as his patient for reconciliation before death. "He´s very attached to Earl Partridge," explains Hoffman. "From the moment Phil realizes that Earl is going to die soon, he´s basically an emotional wreck, because he has really platonically fallen in love with this man."

Adds Hoffman: "I liked that he´s not what you think a male nurse should be with the white pants and the hospital shirts, who feels very little as he gets his check and leaves the door. This guy really takes pride in the fact that every day he´s dealing with life and death circumstances."

Hoffman was acutely aware of his character´s role in the pantheon. "Mine is the only character in the movie who isn´t trying to clean up anything, who isn´t dealing with his past. But even I am drawn into this need to set things right. The whole movie's riddled with this feeling that anything could happen at any moment. You could die or you could discover something that changes everything. So whatever you think it is you need to be doing in life, you better start doing it."


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