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New Line Home Cinema presents
Magnolia (2000)

"And the book says that we may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us."
- Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: September 13, 2000

Stars: Jeremy Blackman, Tom Cruise, Melinda Dillon, Philip Baker Hall, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ricky Jay, William H. Macy, Alfred Molina, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Jason Robards and Melora Walters
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

MPAA Rating: R for Rated R for strong language, drug use, sexuality and some violence.
Run Time: 03h:08m:00s
Release Date: August 29, 2000
UPC: 794043502927
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ A+AB- A-

DVD Review

Magnolia is a true masterpiece of a movie—heavy in drama, intense in its emotional material, characters, and underlying themes. At three hours and fifteen minutes, the film is an amazing epic of artistic triumph. Displaying an amount of originalityand vigor that very few films ever hope to obtain. Magnolia is a film that is not only among the best of last year, but in my opinion one of the top five films of all time.

To say that Magnolia is an ambitious film is an understatement. It is a film so epic and sprawling that it is a true pleasure to sit back and watch it unfold.

At the center of the film is Earl Partridge (Robards), a cancer ridden television producer who is on his deathbed. He has a young wife, Linda (Moore), who is having trouble coping with her impending loss and growing guilt. His estranged son, Frank Mackey (Cruise),a charismatic guru of the "Seduce and Destroy" playboy lifestyle, has severed all connections with Earl. His caretaker, Phil Parma (Seymour Hoffman), spends much of the film trying to grant his employer's dying wish and reunite him with son, Frank. Jimmy Gator (Hall), the host of Earl's most popular TV show, "What Do Kids Know?," is also dying of cancer. Like Earl and Frank, a void exists between Jimmy and his daughter, Claudia (Walters). We also meet Claudia, a habitual drug user, as she meets a police officer, Jim Kurring (Reilly) who treats his job as if he were on a constant episode of Cops, and is attracted to Claudia. There is also the story of Stanley Spector (Blackman), a child genius on Jimmy's show, who finds that the only way to get his father's love is to win money. And there is the story of the former quiz show star, Donnie Smith (Macy), who watches the remains of his life go up in smoke. As the trailer for the film states: this will all make sense in the end.

If there is a central meaning to Magnolia it is the bond between children and their parents. Almost every conflict in the film deals with the struggle for parents to achieve the love of their children, or visa versa. Even Jim Kurring and Phil Parma, non-family members to the rest of the cast, play intricate parts in attempting to help the children reconcile with their parents. The making of this film was personal for Anderson, whose own father recently passed away due to cancer.

If there is one standout star of the film, it is someone who is never seen. The songs by Aimee Mann fit the film perfectly. It has been said that Anderson wrote the film with Mann's songs in mind, and scenes such as the sing along to Wise Up in chapter 9 show why. Mann's work here is not unlike Simon and Garfunkels' for The Graduate; a group of songs that define the film. Jon Brion's subtle, yet dynamic scoree is also noteworthy.

The award wining cast, composed mostly of Anderson regulars, is terrific. There is no surprise that this film won the Best Ensemble Cast award from The National Board of Review. Julianne Moore plays Linda's panic with aplomb and like most of her performances the result is perfect. Other Anderson regulars such as Philip Baker Hall, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, and John C. Reilly are all uniformly fantastic. Robards has a tough job as Earl, as his performance is done entirely from a bed. But the two standouts in the cast are Melora Walters and Tom Cruise. Walters is excellent as Claudia in a very complex performance. Walters has to play many different emotions throughout the film and her date with Reilly is a real high point for her. As for Cruise, what else can be said other than that this is his best performance ever. As Frank T.J. Mackey he takes his career to a new level, and I can only hope that he takes more breaks from his action roles to make more films like Magnolia.

As for Anderson, while his previous films (Hard Eight and <b>Boogie Nights) showed great promise, it is with only his third film, Magnolia, that he has without a doubt created hismasterpiece, coming into his own as a filmmaker of consequence. Many have said that he is borrowing from the masters, particularly Altman, in this film. If that is true then so be it. Magnolia still towers over most films made by Altman, in my opinion. I am anxiously awaiting his next film.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review:
As with most New Line titles, the 2.40:1 anamorphic transfer for Magnolia is a wonder to behold. Colors are vibrant and ar rendered very well, especially the use of the color blue in many scenes. Black levels are great, and there is very little visible grain. Sharpness and detail however, are a bit lacking in some scenes. There were no moments of compression or any instances of pixelation. All in all this is a very good transfer from the folks at New Line.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 tracks offered on the disc are fairly uneventful. The 5.1 track does have nice moments of panning and surround activity. The final scenes are when the surrounds become active for the most part. Bass is tight and never uneven. And both the score and Aimee Mann's songs come through nicely. Dialogue is clear as is the separation of the front speakers. No alternate language is offered.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
9 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Documentaries
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: Unknown

Extra Extras:
  1. Color Bars
  2. Aimee Mann's Save Me music video
  3. Frank T.J. Macket instructional video
  4. Seduce and Destroy Infomercial
Extras Review: Billed as a New Line Platinum Series title, Magnoliaisn't as packed as previous outings from the studio, but it certainly has the best extra material. The film is presented on one of the two discs included in the gatefold packaging.

Disc One:

The full theatrical film is the only thing included. For a three hour and fifteen minute film, New Line has been less than generous with the chapter stops, only 12 are presented. But perhaps the greatest point of controversy is the fact that Anderson did not record a commentary track for the film. I was at first disappointed by the lack of the track, but I recently read an interview with the director where he stated that the film didn't need a commentary, he thought that the film spoke for itself. He is right.

Disc Two:

It is on the second disc that the films best extra features lie. First up are color bars. Let the bars go long enough and Louis Guzman, and Tom Cruise will treat you to some hilarious outtakes. Next are 9 TV spots, each different in its own way. A nice touch is that all 9 spots play through until they are over. Both the theatrical teaser and the excellent theatrical trailer are included in 5.1 sound and anamorphic widescreen. Aimee Mann's music video for the song, Save Me, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen. It is a great song, and deserving of the various award nominations it received.

The three best and most diverse supplements round out disc two on a high note. First up is the full Frank T.J. Mackey infommercial that we see snippets of in the film itself. It is a hilarious five minute clip that had my friends and I laughing hysterically. Even better is the "Seduce and Destroy" instructional video that is a longer version of the seminar being given in the film. Cruise has a moment in the video that had me laughing so hard that I had to go back over it three or four times because I couldn't hear it over my laughter. And the final, and most amazing, extra feature of all is Mark Rance's documentary The Moment. Rance had almost full access to both the set and the actors on the film, and his camera catches everything. From interviews with most of the cast (Cruise is mysteriously absent), to conversations with the crew, Rance never misses a beat. Covering the days before pre-production all the way up until Anderson received the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, The Moment is a documentary not to be missed.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

Magnolia is a film that I have seen countless times, and it just keep getting better. It is in my top five of all time, and I believe that is second only to Fight Club as the best film of 1999. Do yourself a favor and buy this disc. If not for the film itself, buy it for the sleek packaging and the amazing disc of supplements. Recommended as highly as possible.

 


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