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Review Magnolia (1999)


“MAGNOLIA” (1999)
By Paul Thomas Anderson | USA
#PTAMarathon
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Do you know those restless nights when you would lay awake until two in the morning just wondering on life, on past regrets and future hopes? That is exactly what “Magnolia” is for its three straight solemn hours of runtime. You would think after making the frantic and wild ride that is “Boogie Nights”, a director would lower his gears and settle for something simpler, but no — not Paul Thomas Anderson. Here in this epic collage of interwoving stories, everything that Anderson did he did a hundred times bigger yet with equal care, and the same could be said with everyone involved in this magnificent example of a collaborative piece of art.
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The film opens itself running straight to its themes: coincidences, and the nature of it — the sheer audacity and divine quality we associate with it. We got three examples of them in an opening sequence narrated by Ricky Jay, as he tells the stories of allegedly true events based on ridiculous coincidental series of occurrences; most of them lead to tragic demises that could’ve been averted if only one slight chance goes the other way. It’s an example, a case that the film is trying to prove of how coincidental life is and how much of a clockwork the notion of time and events can actually be. It is from there do the film sprawl into different corners of Los Angeles, zooming in close and personal to individuals who though at first seems scattered and unrelated, grew closer and more connected as the film progresses. Watching these unfold is a wonderous thing and it truly grinds your mind on that same point the film outright told you at the very first second. That we are like cogs and wheels in a grander scheme, perhaps of God or a cosmical cause.
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It’s even no secret that Anderson is aiming for a religious perspective in this story. He confirmed publically how he was drawn to the spiritual aspect of life and how he poured that side of him into this story. Which makes clear sense, seeing how drawn he is to that search for purpose — a recurring theme on his works. What answer is more comforting than believing that everything, every fortunate and unfortunate events are part of a bigger plan? Certainly that is Anderson’s approach and also, a majority of us all as well.
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So is it faith then? Is “Magnolia”s answer to coincidence is faith? It’s tough to nail seeing how simultaneously destined yet chaotic the film’s ending is. Without giving to much away here, “Magnolia” did not end the way it led us to believe it will. It didn’t deliver on the promise that everything will turn out as it was expected; it deviates from our understanding of what a destiny is. Ultimately, what it is trying to tell us about coincidence and faith, is that the two are never different. And religiously it is trying to tell us that the divine works in ways we cannot comprehend. Nothing is planned in this universe because it doesn’t need a plan. Everything works simply because its rotates on the same chaotic cluster we call with different names.
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“Magnolia” is what Anderson believed to be his magnum opus. Though a lot may not agree, I truly believe it is. Not in the sense that it’s his best movie or it’s a favorite of mine by his (that remains to be seen after I watched all of them), but by how it is tied deeply within his believes, both in life and in his work.
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