BP’s Top 100 Movie List Challenge #92: Magnolia, by Sarah Brinks
I decided to undertake a movie challenge in 2017. This seemed like a good way to see some classic movies that I have tragically never seen. The Battleship Pretension Top 100 list has a good number of films I hadn’t seen before so it is a good source for my challenge.
Something interesting is happening as I work my way through the Battleship Pretension Top 100 list, I am noticing how my perspective on some of these films have changed as I have changed as a person. For example with Magnolia, what a difference a decade makes! One of my best friends showed me Magnolia probably nine or ten years ago and I really didn’t like. Just to add a little context I was still living in my home state and very little had happened to me in my life at that point. Now nearly a decade later I have moved to a new state and had many life experiences both positive and negative. In fact the motivating factor for me moving (being laid off from a job when the company went bankrupt) felt like the worst possible thing that could happen and in fact it was maybe one of the best things. That is the essence of Magnolia.
While I have nearly reversed my original opinion of the film I still don’t love all of it. I understand the purpose of the opening sequence but it feels gimmicky and doesn’t really fit with the rest of the film except for the overall theme. One of the things I struggled with the most the first time I saw the film was the Tom Cruise story line about “seduce and destroy”. It is still a very troubling part of the film but I think this time around I was able to see it for its intent rather than just its shock value. When I first saw it I was shocked and offended by the horrible things Cruise’s Frank Mackey was preaching to his pathetic followers, but this time around I was able to see how pathetic Mackey is. With the recent “men’s right movement” in America it is easy to see how fragile egos, rejection by women, and overall weakness of character would drive these men to seek someone out like Frank Mackey to make them feel powerful and in control. When Mackey names chapters of his workbook, “how to fake being nice and caring” you can’t help but roll your eyes and laugh. Cruise’s performance as Mackey is really fantastic, especially when he is at his most vulnerable. Cruise is just one example of the fantastic performances in the film. There isn’t any weak link that I can point to in the impressive cast list.
The first time I saw the film I understood what it was trying to say about how connected things are but I don’t think I really got it. Now that I have an additional decade of experiences I am able to understand the connective tissue of the film much better. The film made me feel both the largeness of life by being connected to so many people in ways you probably never know as well as the smallness of life as we are all only one person and can only do the best with what we are given. That feeling was completely lost on me the first time I saw it but felt like a slap in the face this time around.
I really recommend if you are in a situation like I was in not having seen the film in a long time or not liking it the first time, give it another try. It might surprise you the same way it surprised me.
I’ve decided to rate each film using an arbitrary scale based on the board game Battleship (lowest: Destroyer, Submarine, Cruiser, Battleship, highest: Carrier)
Magnolia ranking: Battleship