K J’s review published on Letterboxd:
After hearing about Paul Thomas Anderson for quite some time now, and realizing I’ve never seen any of his work, I decided to watch ‘Magnolia’ the day before it expired on Netflix. I’m also a huge fan of Tom Cruise so that was a big bonus, but I had also seen it mentioned in a YouTube video of the greatest films from the 90’s.
I watched Magnolia Sunday night, and as I write this it’s Wednesday night, turning into Thursday morning and I literally CAN NOT STOP thinking about ‘Magnolia’ and everything it presents/presented.
Magnolia follows several different characters and their stories, and how the vast majority of them are all intertwined. The opening sequence describing a few different events that happened but appear to be coincidental sets up the rest of the story in an unexpected yet wonderful fashion. Admittedly, I think I missed out on how that opening sequence directly ties into the rest of the story within the film despite being a great intro. I had the thought that, that opening sequence was going to come back into play later on in the film or at the end, and it sort of does but sort of doesn’t, which is one of the several things I continue to contemplate about this film.
I’ve read some other reviews that point out how Magnolia shows people who aren’t they present themselves to be, and they’re essentially wearing masks. Though not quite the same, but within the same vein of that sentiment, I didn’t see each character and their struggles not as them wearing masks and hiding parts of themselves. Rather, I saw each character hiding their pain, troubles, and struggles from the outside world and only letting certain people in, which I viewed more so as everyone you meet may or may not struggling with something that we know nothing about, so we should try our best not to judge them so harshly.
Throughout Magnolia, there are several parallels shown within and between each character and from my initial understanding of the synopsis before even beginning to watch the film, every character is connected to each other somehow. Which brings me to one of the questions I continue to ponder over, how was the police officer connected to the rest of them?
I may be missing something, but from what I can gather, seemingly every character is connected to Earl Partridge with the exception of the cop. Why is the police office the outlier here? Why is his connection to the rest of the characters more indirect?
Regardless of all the questions this film presents, the biggest one I had was the frogs. Why are frogs showing up? How does that tie into the story at all? It feels so inexplicably misplaced and damn near pulled me out of the highly immersive experience I was having with the film. Earlier in the film, Aimee Mann’s song Wise Up, begins to play and the entire cast sings with it. Exactly as we’d expect in a musical, but this film is the furthest thing from a musical and the scene also feels misplaced as well. However, Mann’s Wise Up scene ultimately ends up becoming a truly beautiful, powerful, and moving scene and earns its place in the film. I honestly can not say the same for the frogs, the frogs are extremely out of place and overall, didn’t serve much of a purpose within the film.
Some may consider Magnolia a masterpiece, and for myself, it was well on its way to becoming a masterpiece until the frogs, unfortunately it was just too out of place and really feels like it does more harm than good both figuratively and literally, and because of that, I can’t give this film more than four stars as much as I had wanted too before the frogs scene.