Tom Cruise is no stranger to controversy, whether it be his professional life or personal. Professionally, Cruise has starred in a number of films that have raised an eyebrow or two. One such Tom Cruise film that definitely raised eyebrows is now available to parse through on Netflix. Magnolia is a hefty movie, clocking in at over three hours. It’s at once an ensemble piece that, unless you’re a fan of Paul Thomas Anderson films, may be an acquired taste.
The film stars Tom Cruise in an award-worthy performance as Frank Mackey, a motivational speaker who is out shilling a pickup artist course for men. But Cruise isn’t the only focus of the film. It also stars John C. Reilly, the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Jeremy Blackman, Jason Robards, Melinda Dillon, and Philip Baker Hall among a large cast.
As this film comes from the mind of Anderson, it requires attention. As in, one must be patient in dealing with the numerous stories that eventually come together. These stories are set in the San Fernando Valley in California on one specific day and follow a young wife, a dying father, a famous son, a boy genius along with an ex-boy genius, a police officer in love, a male caretaker, an estranged daughter, and a game show host. As we said, it is hefty.
Attempting to tie all the sub-plots into one big plot is as hard as it sounds. As each story unfolds in this Tom Cruise movie, tying them together looks to be a near-impossible task, but although Anderson takes his time, things eventually come together.
John C. Reilly is Officer Jim Kurring, who is investigating a domestic disturbance. During his initial investigation, he visits the apartment of Claudia Wilson, who is dealing with cocaine addiction. Unaware, Jim asks her out.
Jimmy (Philip Baker Hall) is the host of the long-running hit TV show What Do Kids Know? He is hiding a secret, that he’s dying of cancer. Stanley is the young boy who is the star of the show, but he is surrounded by horrible adults to include his own father. During a commercial break, Stanley needs to use the bathroom but is told he needs to stay on set. When the show resumes, Stanley promptly wets his pants. Earl (Robards) is the former producer of What Do Kids Know? and he too is dying of cancer. Knowing his end is coming quickly, Earl asks his nurse, Phil (Hoffman), to find his son Frank (Tom Cruise), whom he hasn’t spoken to in years.
Linda (Julianne Moore) is Earl’s trophy wife. Young and beautiful, she married Earl for his money but over the years actually fell in love with the man. Now, she doesn’t want the money and goes to Earl’s lawyer to tell him as much. She becomes bitter toward Phil when she finds out that he tried to bring Frank (Tom Cruise) home. Despondent, Linda tries to end her life.
Jimmy goes home to confess to his wife, Rose, that he cheated on her. During his confession, Rose asks him why their daughter, Claudia, no longer speaks to him. As if one confession isn’t enough, Jimmy tells Rose that Claudia thinks he molested her.
How do these stories connect? That is the beauty of Anderson’s script. It’s not necessarily a neat bow with which he ties it all up, but Anderson does put things together. The question then begs – is it worth sitting for over three hours to see it all play out?
Critics and audiences both feel that it is, with many focusing on Tom Cruise’s work in the film. Kenneth Turan, of the Los Angeles Times, said in his review, “Mackey [Cruise’s character Frank Mackey] gives Cruise the chance to cut loose by doing amusing riffs on his charismatic superstar image. It’s great fun, expertly written and performed, and all the more enjoyable because the self-parody element is unexpected”.
With Magnolia, Tom Cruise does a complete 180 from his previous film, Eyes Wide Shut. While being more reserved and uptight in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, Cruise cuts loose with reckless abandon as Frank, as he even pokes fun at his real-life superstar image.
For his role as Frank, Tom Cruise was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He brought home the Golden Globe, though he eventually returned it, with two other Golden Globes, in protest to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s lack of diversity.
One after another, Tom Cruise hit it out of the park with blockbusters. He followed Magnolia with his second entry in the Mission: Impossible franchise. Next came Vanilla Sky, Minority Report, The Last Samurai, Collateral, War of the Worlds, and then the third film in his Mission: Impossible series.
While Tom Cruise gets lambasted time and again for his affiliation with Scientology, one can’t discount the effect he has on the box office. Since Cruise first hit the big screen with Endless Love, Taps, The Outsiders, and Risky Business, the mega-star has brought in over $10 billion worldwide at the box office. Up next for Cruise is the highly anticipated and long-delayed sequel, Top Gun: Maverick. Then Cruise has both Mission: Impossible 7 and Mission: Impossible 8, movies he is filming concurrently.
Tom Cruise brings a bit of levity to Magnolia but make no mistake, the film is deep. If you want to invest three hours plus in some great filmmaking and outstanding performances, Magnolia can be seen on Netflix.