Published on 13 July 2003 in ,

It was nominated for three academy awards. The front cover of the DVD has the statutory reviewer quotes on it. The back cover has even more on it. The reviews on Amazon are all so gushing its unbelievable. It has William H. Macy in it. It has all the right credentials – this should be a good film.

So why did I find Magnolia a bit dull?

The plot

The concept sounds like it should be good. There’s several stories which are all linked together. Because of this, it’s actually very hard to explain the plot because there are so many competing. There’s a dying father who owns a production company, his estranged son who teaches seduction techniques, and his young wife.

Then there is the presenter of a quiz show which is produced by the production company owned by the dying father, the presenter’s estranged daughter and a policeman who falls in love with her.

Then there is a boy genius who is on the quiz show, and a former boy genius now down on his luck.

Got that?

The film

There’s several things that were just so wrong about this film. For starters, it’s long. Three hours long.

Now I’ve nothing against three hour films, if they hold your attention. This is where Magnolia fell down for me. Try as I might, my mind kept wandering away from the film.

The reason was the sheer about of waffle and drivel in there. The start of the film featured the policeman finding a body in a closet, and arresting a woman. This lasted easily half an hour, which made you think this was an important part of the plot. No chance.

After a rather odd bit of the woman being interviewed in the police station, we never saw her again – although its worth mentioning that the whole five minute interview sequence had absolutely no relevance to anything at all. So why include it?

This is not the only bit of waffle in the film – there’s another bit with a ten year old child doing a rap in front of the policeman which seemed to last forever, and apart from introducing the kid (a minor part who re-appeared later) did nothing else bar tell us that the policeman didn’t like swearing.

Then there was the odd bits. A rather good scene, but utterly meaningless, featured all the main characters singing along to the same song in their various locations. Then there were the raining frogs, which did so little to the plot line that you have to wonder if it was only included to spend some extra money?

It’s probably fair to say that there is easily half an hour of redundant footage in the film that could have made it punchier. No doubt many will politely explain that we’re seeing a full insight into the characters minds. Well, okay, you could say that, and in some circumstances it would work, but with so much going on, it just added to the confusion and disinterest.

The reviewers

Judging by the reviews around, this isn’t a popular viewpoint. Powerful and astonishing are two words used to describe it. Meaningful and powerful are two others.

Even Minx, a magazine aimed at teenage girls said it was "an absolute must-see… An astonishingly powerful film.".

This rather perturbs me – that Minx magazine gets this yet I don’t. There are even good reviews from the Times, The Independent, the Guardian, the News of the World and the Daily Star. This is supposed to be an intelligent film, and I like intelligent films.

So if all these people got it (and lets face it, neither the News of the World nor the Daily Star are particularly high-brow), should I be worried?

Well all I can say is what I think. It could have been a better film if the waffle had been cut out. A much better film. Not that I think the makers will care given all the good reviews they’ve got…