It was a cold morning in Erie, Pennsylvania. The black coffee was pumping through my veins and my tired eyes were wired on road ahead of me on the drive to my film class. This class to most would seem pointless; at least that’s what I thought when I found out it was a pre-requisite for one of my other classes… but I grew to love it. The class gave me a deeper understanding and appreciation for film.
I admired my professor and his taste in film. He showed us the opening clip for P.T. Anderson’s 1999 film “Magnolia” that morning. The way the characters were presented in those first few minutes was unlike anything I ever watched before. I was hooked instantly. I had to see this movie in its entirety. However, I’m lazy when it comes to renting movies so yesterday I finally got around to watching it.
The movie begins with the narrator telling the audience of three different astonishing coincidences that suggests that there are forces greater than chance that play important roles in life. I’ve always been curious about this myself. You hear of people’s experiences with serendipity but there has to be more to it than just a pleasant occurrence. There has to be some form of divine intervention that is planned for people to find clarity in some aspect of their life.
Magnolia follows the lives of several interrelated characters in search of happiness, forgiveness, and meaning in one San Fernando Valley day. The film shows each main character right in the beginning- so you know they are all connected somehow. This parallel film structure can be very difficult to pull off and P.T. Anderson delivers it phenomenally. It continuously addressed he juxtaposition of people’s lives. In the movie the characters are not all connected at the same time but they are relative to each other like petals of a flower, one of several reasons why this film is titled Magnolia. I believe everyone can relate to at least one of the characters in the film. The people are dealing with real life confusing shit, from cancer to troubled parents, to addictions,etc.
The film was an original screenplay by P.T. Anderson too. All the music in the film was original creations from Aimee Mann. I only heard of her before watching this movie through a skit on Portlandia (one of my guilty pleasures) so I already had a predisposition towards her. To me, her music is more in the adult alternative genre, it isn’t my favorite which made me skeptical. However, the songs are powerful and play in sync with the theme of the film. Many of which are searching for meaning. The songs One (opening scene), Wise Up, and Save Me truly gave chills down my spine- and are completely relatable.
Perhaps, the most intriguing part of the film is when the on-going theme of Exodus 8:2 finally takes place. “And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs.” And it actually rains frogs. Each character takes this weird occurrence positively, like a sign from the universe that they need to let go of the heavy things going on in their life. Thus, changes the characters for the better and helps them let go of their past a bit.
“We might be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.”
There is more symbolism and character themes I could rave about but I highly suggest you dedicate 3 hours of your time to seeing this critically acclaimed film. There are twists, turns, and your attention will not be broken. The cast includes many well-known actors today such as Tom Cruise, Juilianne Moore, and Philip Seymour Hoffman to name a few. Magnolia is truly a film for us 90s babies trying to make understanding of the world and ourselves. Everyone needs saved once in a while.