My love of Magnolia knows no bounds. Paul Thomas Anderson’s sprawling epic about a handful of San Fernando Valley residents searching for love and redemption is one of the most audacious and beautiful American movies ever made. It’s also one of the bravest.
Upon it’s release in 1999 the film became the talk of Hollywood because of a few key sequences which people just couldn’t believe Anderson had the balls to attempt. Frogs rain down, coincidences happen, lives intersect and at one point, they even sing.
Anderson talks about the moment he wrote this scene in the introduction to his screenplay:
“The connection of writing ‘from the gut’ and ‘writing to music’ cannot be found any clearer than in the Wise Up section of the screenplay. I had reached the end of Earl’s monologue and was searching for a little vibe-I was lost a bit, and on the headphones came Aimee Mann singing ‘Wise Up.’ I wrote as I listened – and the most natural course of action was that everyone should sing-sing how they feel. In the most good old-fashioned Hollywood Musical Way, each character, and the writer, began singing how they felt. This is one of those things that just happens, and I was either too stupid or not scared enough to hit ‘delete’ once done. Next thing you know, you’re filming it. And I’m Really Happy That It Happened.”
And I’m really happy that it happened too. This sequence is a perfect moment of a filmmaker unashamedly showing the audience his heart and soul. It defies logic and expectation and could easily have come across as laughable (many did laugh), but for those of us who get it, we’re hard pushed to find a more poignant and moving piece of filmmaking.