Magnolia (1999) – The Melancholy of Paul Thomas Anderson

This movie asks us as human beings in general who don’t have connections anymore both in family and friends. We never realize that humans connect their red thread to others. Whether it’s to a stranger you don’t know or anything, we seem to be connected by these threads. Through a complex drama between eight or nine characters in San Fernando Valley with raining cats and dogs, “Magnolia” is melancholy. Paul Thomas Anderson was the subject of discussion since his “Boogie Nights” movie. However, the film became an endless conversation because of the number of gigantic actors, the three-hour movie, and took many references from the Bible. If “Boogie Nights” discusses human anxiety and suffering through the pornography industry, “Magnolia” tells it through the television industry in a slice of life.

Magnolia (flower) symbolizes dignity and nobility. Pink Magnolia symbolizes feminine, friends and love while White Magnolia symbolizes the moon. In ancient China, it’s a representation of beauty and gentleness. According to South America, it reflects the bride’s purity. The symbolism of the flower is so diverse. In this film, “Magnolia” itself is a symbolism of humans and melancholy. It starts with three mutually unrelated stories. There is a murder on Greenberry Hill. One is a dead diver in a tree. And the other is a child who committed suicide but his parents shot him coincidentally. The stories occur and become the main plot in “Magnolia”. They connect their connections with one another a lot and are full of coincidences.

So, instead of watching all Quentin Tarantino movies but with more blood or Ryohgo Narita works such as “Durarara!!” or “Baccano!” with a lot of mystery, Anderson has his own theme. “Magnolia” is a drama movie, a pure drama movie. This film gives a warning that coincidence isn’t a mere coincidence. But, it’s an action. It makes us forget that coincidence is what triggers us. The story uses the television industry as a footstep and certain points on how they connected each other. This film is like a TV series. It brings together various programs with each other. Just say like a crossover. It allows the characters to run linearly. Be a magnolia like characters who frame themselves. They are difficult in communicating, difficult to open up, and difficult to recognize themselves. They are all inhabited by their own suffering.

So, shall we begin? The premise? The plot of “Magnolia” is like a derivative. Jason Robards as Earl Partridge is a television show producer. He lay limp from cancer. Philip Seymour Hoffman as Phil is a nurse who sits beside him. He would do anything to help Earl after knowing his son’s whereabouts and trying to connect to him. Supposedly, there were two more people in the place, Julianne Moore as Linda and Tom Cruise as Frank. Linda is Earl’s second wife after being guilty of marrying her financially, staying a little longer. Hit by guilt, Linda always consumes drugs. Meanwhile, Frank is Earl’s son from his first wife. He hated his father for treating his mother who eventually died. After changing his name, Frank gained fame through his television program.

Earl has a favorite program, an educational quiz that introduces adults and children against genius competitions. The program became popular because of two geniuses. There is Jeremy Blackman as Stanley and William H. Macy as Donnie Smith. Stanley was a kid whose fame was exploited by his father. Donnie is a former quiz champion who now lives upside down while questioning his sexuality. The show introduced by Philip Baker Hall as Jimmy Gator. He was also temporarily ill and accused of sexual harassment by his daughter, Melora Walters as Claudia. After not being confident and such the case, Claudia began to shut herself inside her apartment while consuming cocaine. After almost being caught by a police officer, John C. Reilly as Jim began to fall in love with him. Jim is very religious but also very cowardly with his work.

Is there something missing? I don’t know. Clearly, that’s the “simple” premise of this film. Paul Thomas Anderson was also inspired by Aimee Mann’s song “It’s Not Going to Stop”. A scene when these major characters sing together in different places and are feeling down is very coincidental. “Magnolia” is like a relationship and hierarchy. They tried to put up their ideal faces to cover their weaknesses. Being a mask for such a relationship, finally, no one ever understood them. Frank is a gentleman who seems to be a misogynist as well. But, that is just a fit of anger to his past. Claudia, who is anti-social, accidentally falls in love with a policeman where at first this was just a kind of problem-solving. Donnie, in the past, was a genius. He could have shown off his genius and intelligence but actually, nobody cared.

The movie’s special benchmark and became the talk until now is namely the ending. The ending has nothing to do with the story and it lacks any sense. Most critics always say that the ending is unreasonable. But, that frog rain, let me tell you, is one of my favorite in this movie or in any end. When talking about logic, frog rain seems ridiculous. However, Anderson connects this frog rain with the existence of God, to say at least, or some kind of entity from almighty. A case of frogs or fish rain has occurred in several countries. Other cases have also happened to hail or others. Indeed, this cannot be accepted logically or scientifically. Frog is like a leap of faith.

In a religious subject when I was in school, one of my religious teachers explained what caused rain and natural disasters. He said that if the rain happened because of a sign that something was coming to you, only God knew. Like for example when you want to go out in the morning but it turns out, suddenly it rains. You are sorry or can be annoyed by the rain. According to my teacher, it’s a sign that something bad would come to you if you force to go through the rain. Because in fact, “getting rid of” 10 people in the disaster was just to save one person. One person is very special even though the person doesn’t know that he survived while carrying out his daily activities.

In the context of “Magnolia”, frog rain is an event in bringing together all these melancholy characters. When they think that the world will end soon, they finally begin to open up to each other. Initially, they buried their feelings deeply. Finally, the feeling arises to the surface and develops into a desire to open one another. They all survived and even in the last time, they took their time to each other. The occurrence of this frog rain encouraged all characters to do introspection and provide a second opportunity. While waving frogs, they finally gave their thanks, continued their lives, and understood what the true meaning of life was.

“Magnolia” is a piece of rare cinema, a story with a lot of parable and details. This film not only expresses it through words but with feelings as well. You feel much pain in it but you don’t know that it’s actually not pain. You cry, laugh, angry, annoyed, and nervous. Paul Thomas Anderson taught us about this connection between humans for three hours. For some reason, three hours is nothing. In fact, this is like a very fast one-hour movie but more like a roller coaster ride that is too fast. I just want more when the movie ends.

5 out of 5 stars.

Salman Al Farisi

An Indonesian who loves to watch and read everything. A literary student who likes to write about reviews and essays on Crackdown Review. But, I just wannabe critics who love arthouse than anything.

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