NOTE: Comments contain spoilers.
20 January 2000
Sheesh, I don't know what you get paid to write a review of such depth and detail. I have a friend who writes art book reviews for Amazon.com and it doesn't pay that great. On the other hand, it takes me 3-6 years to write a book (I'm a novelist) so it probably works out the same. But the point is, I'm sure you gave them (and finally us, your readers) more than their money's worth. What a gorgeous, heartfelt piece of writing. I'll look for more from you in the future. Thanks.
Oh, by the way, what's with the frogs? My take: another one of the themes, or another way of looking at the theme of chance is unity, and the frogs bring in the inevitable element of chaos that, in its own way, becomes integrated with all the rest through the fall Macy takes from the side of the building, and the fall the game show host takes in his own kitchen, each of them falling, like the frogs.
To be perfectly honest, the pay at AboutFilm is lousy. (As in zero pay. It's a very young site with revenue sources pending, but currently non-existant.) Still, the company is good! Under these circumstances, you're absolutely correct. Everybody got their money's worth.
Your response to my review is genuinely heartwarming. It's particularly nice to receive such kind words, as this specific film got through to me on such a personal level. Whatever Anderson's intended wavelength was, I certainly found myself on it. As for the frogs, I love the fact that they are left to mean as little or as much as anybody chooses to find in his/her own imagination or interpretation. Your reading is delightful! As for mine, I sort of saw it as a response (by nature, God, whatever....) to the characters' collective "failure." Prior to the rain of frogs, each of the central characters fails to overcome his/her anger or self-loathing. Frank screams hate at his helpless, comatose father, fighting off anything resembling kindness or compassion. Earl has given up fighting and drifted out of consciousness. Donnie has betrayed decency and succumbed to his ludicrous desire for those braces, choosing to steal the money rather than accept that he neither needs them nor can afford them. Officer Jim has passed judgment on Claudia for her language, driving her back into a state of detachment and fear. Claudia has chickened-out and fled the restaurant and her chance at a relationship. Linda has attempted suicide. Jimmy Gator has confessed his lesser crimes to Rose to seek her absolution, but denied his deepest betrayal, even to himself. Stanley has fled to his refuge in the library, where he pores over articles about wunkerkinds of the past, as if to immerse himself in his own failure.
The rain of frogs drags them all out of their chosen states to one degree or another. Gator is singled out for punishment. And, in a way, so is Donnie. After that fall, he'll actually NEED orthodontic surgery! The others seem to be brought out of themselves and into the moment, where they do manage some measure of redemption. Officer Jim helps Donnie put the money back instead of arresting him. Claudia embraces her estranged mother. Frank looks Earl in the eye and his anger evaporates in the face of Earl's utter helplessness and imminent death. Frank then takes his trip to the hospital to help Linda, a total stranger who is the only "family" he's got left. Earl's prayer (to see his son) is answered, as is Officer Jim's (the return of the gun). Stanley--who may have actually anticipated the rain of frogs--is refocused on his wonderment with the world, summoning the courage to return home and face his father, whom he cautions... "you need to be nicer to me." (A bad line of dialogue, perhaps, but interesting for its content, because he's addressing the father's need, not his own.) And Claudia is forgiven her flighty panic by Officer Jim, who comes to her and pledges unconditional friendship, allowing them both the thing they most need: she to be saved by acceptance, and he to have someone who needs and wants to be saved by him. A chance to do good AND find love... another answered prayer!
So, I guess I see the frogs as another force for synchronicity, but this time in transition to self-propelled redemption (most of them) or condemnation (Gator). Obviously, even my answers to simple questions are wordy! Aren't you sorry you asked? ;)
In any case, thank you very, very much for your response. You've brightened my world!
31 January 2000
Fuckin' A! I know it sounds manifestly juvenile and far too 70s, but what else can I say to your review? I'm a fifth-year English major and screenwriting teacher and all I know is Magnolia blew me clean away. As I was telling a friend of mine earlier today - there seems to be one or two movies a year is all that completely alter my life, that set me going on some new and clearer path. In 1996 it was Michael Winterbottom's Jude. In 1997 it was Gillian Armstrong's Oscar and Lucinda. In 1998 - Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line. And, this last year, it has been (without a kernel of doubt) Magnolia. I expected a great deal from this film - I was hugely disappointed by Boogie Nights. And P.T. doesn't falter for even a moment. A remarkable review. Thanks.
Hey... I'm a fan of "juvenile and 70s," so you hit just the right notes!
Thank you for your enthusiastic response to my review, and especially for taking the time to write it down and send it to the site. I love feedback, particularly when it validates my own opinion! ;) I'm happiest to hear that you were blown away. While it's hardly a universal reaction to Magnolia, I'm bumping into more and more individuals who were similarly affected, and it's refreshing to see the pleasure that a passionate response brings. I never EXPECT to find this in a movie theater, but I do hold out hope, which probably accounts for that low-grade thrill I always feel as the lights dim. In the case of Magnolia, I distinctly recall thinking (midway through the film) that I ought to pinch myself, because what I was experiencing just couldn't be real. But it was, which I confirmed by sitting through it again... and again... and.... Well, I'm sure you get the picture.
Thank you SO much for your response! It definitely brightened my day.
14 February 2000
Thank you for seeing what so few other critics saw--or at least for agreeing with my point of view and experience of the film. I, too, cried my eyes out, and appeared to be the only person doing so in the theater. Your perception of the pacing, and the use of music, and the film's structure: How else can one account for one's total absorption into the film, for literally being outside of time, and missing the passage of almost three hours? Philip Seymour Hoffman broke my heart. I want him with me when I'm dying. None of my friends saw it. I found Melora Walters' performance extraordinary--more so than John C. Reilly's (but he's always amazed me). Thank you again for putting into (such perfect) words what I could not articulate. I don't know you, but would like to read your reviews more. I guess we all like validation, and usually people don't share my experience.
–Linda D'Onofrio (no relation, unfortunately)
18 February 2000
Speaking of people liking validation... thank you for your extremely touching response to my review. Though our shared "personal" reaction to Magnolia isn't exactly the norm, I've spoken to several other people who were similarly swept up and blown away. I wonder what that says about us? I hope it's something good, because I'm clinging to that belief regardless of its quantifiable merits. I'll willingly admit that I'm akin to an exposed nerve if a film can manage to peel away my defenses. It doesn't happen very often, and only rarely am I affected in a way that could be described as profound. This was one of those times. I'm exceedingly grateful to you for sharing your thoughts with me, and for expressing them so beautifully. I'm embarrassingly pleased to hear that my struggle to articulate what I saw and felt was a worthwhile effort. The review was quite difficult to write, probably because it was so hard for me to intellectualize and verbalize such a non-intellectual, non-verbal experience. The fact that my words can somehow speak for the perceptions and feelings of a total stranger is incredible to me! And that this could happen with regard to my agonizingly "out there" Magnolia review brings me no small measure of comfort and joy. Thank you!!
18 February 2000
More than my amazement at your Magnolia review is my sheer incredulity of the fact that you responded to my message. Thank you for your time, which is my most precious commodity--as well as your comments. I can imagine how difficult it was to articulate your experience of Magnolia, which does not lend itself to typical formulaic linear review-writing. Speaking of reviews, I came to this one through mrqe.com and a plug-in of Magnolia. Your incitefulness and sincerity caused me to seek other reviews by you, which eventually led me to AboutFilm.Com. I have now read a number of your 1999 reviews (and REFUSED, out of spite, to read the D+ review of Blair Witch by your colleague), and, by copy of this message to whomever Carlo at AboutFilm might me, I offer my unsolicited but vociferous vote that you start getting PAID for your obvious extraordinary effort (love those "see what others have commented" for inside info). At least we in the moviephile subculture of NYC crave the sophistication and complexity of reviews such as yours (as well as your impeccable writing--thank you, again), and, while it remains a mystery to me how AboutFilm earns a living, YOU obviously need to. Oh, by the way, I also had the sense that I had seen Angelina Jolie do her Girl, Interrupted thing before, but I have never seen her in anything before (no HBO for me)!! Maybe that means that she really WAS incredibly good in that she became the sociopathic-Everywoman encountered so frequently here in Gotham. Also by the way, I am not in or connected to the movie business other than by yearning spirit, which I, unfortunately, am too old (and perhaps too wise) to bring into real-world being. Maybe in my next lifetime.
It remains a mystery to me how AboutFilm earns a living as well, and I'm the Web Master. Glad you enjoyed my review of Blair Witch... another satisfied customer. :-/ (My views on that film have not exactly been popular.)
Thanks for visiting,
6 April 2000
your review can be summed up in one word: BRILLIANT. i have never seen such poignant beautiful writing, and i loved the film almost as much as you did. im sure p.t. anderson would be proud.
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