Or should people at school get education on relationship, family relations and raising a child?
At university, I had taken a course in Film and Media Studies. Among the three papers I prepared for the course the very first one was about the 1999 film Magnolia, written, produced, and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. The reason I chose it at first place was its appeal to me, being one of the smartest movies I’ve ever watched, and it still is. I remember watching it at least three or four times and analyzing every piece. The more I watched, the wider grew its impact on me, and on different dimensions.
Yes, I had realized how relatively lucky I was in regard to family relationships, yet also more importantly I faced the truth: one way or another our society is surrounded by troubled parents, whose children end up carrying that hidden burden on their shoulders, maybe turning into troubled parents themselves and/or troubled personalities of our lives in our everyday environment. Hence the question, can everyone raise a child and should they?
All the characters in ‘Magnolia’ shared an uncomfortable feeling with the past; they had problematic family relations and regrets, and as a consequence carried a similar loneliness. Main theme became children paying out their parents’ conducts.
Do parents that have difficulties in showing their love to their children also create people that have difficulties in expressing their love? Why do parents’ fears become also felt by their children themselves?
In extreme cases, isn’t it the lack of love or lack of display of it that leads to creation of today’s villains? Villain is an exaggeration of course…
‘What do kids know’ – this is the name of a thirty-three years old, popular quiz show in Magnolia, on in almost every scene. This was a very ironically and smartly used shared medium by Anderson, contributing to the theme of the film. The illusion that the former quiz kid star Donnie and the current quiz kid star Stanley have to go through, made them know the answers to those ‘rub-a-dub’ questions on the quiz show but feel only more alienated by their parents’ conducts. The name I had given to my paper was ‘What do parents know?’, and I thought that they mostly know very little in fact about raising children and communicating with them.
The only currently child in the movie, the new generation quiz kid Stanley -who could win the quiz game but not his father’s love- was voicing the essential message of the movie to his father: “Dad, you have to be nicer to me!”
I don’t want to be a message-chaser but this is the strongest statement I took from the movie, maybe presented in the most orderly way I’ve seen in a movie…A message that has to be absorbed by all the parents and the parents-to-be.
So, my personal view on the two questions I put here is: i.) no, not everyone can raise a child… Hence ii.) yes, parents, potential parents and everyone – they should be taught on raising a child and being nice to children…
The ending scene included the song Aimee Mann’s “Save Me”, which in a way concluded the film with a more hopeful climate, overlapping with the smile on Claudia’s face, a daughter that had been annoyed by her father, in the movie. So I agree, there is always hope for children or adults to recover from negative traces of the past, but why not more responsible from the start…
A note on the soundtrack: The film-soundtrack connection never felt that right in another movie to me, in reflecting characters’ state of mind and moods. The soundtrack complemented the movie in such a way, that you could almost read the untold inner talks of characters in certain scenes and feel how full their baggage from the past was. Aimee Mann’s music that was blended into the movie in a rarely successful way (also becoming the reason I fell for Aimee’s songs) created a very live emotional depth. In one of the interviews about Magnolia, Anderson had actually commented (1999): “Aimee was the person who turned me on to the investigation of who you are and what your background means to you” (http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL472A45EE2E934C68 here is a link to a selection of Aimee Mann songs). So what that background really meant…In my view, a lot…
My favourite Magnolia scenes
Here is a link to youtube videos of these scenes: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL76A090B496FECD55
- The opening song of the film (after the prologue) ‘One’ with lines ‘One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do. Two can be as bad as one, it’s the loneliest number since the number one…’’, where you are being introduced to the characters.
- When Phil Parma (Philipp Seymour Hoffman), – the nurse of dying TV producer Earl Partridge (Jason Robards), who wants to see his son before he dies-, refers to movies at the telephone, where he asks for help to reach Earl’s son (Tom Cruise) “I know this sounds silly and I might sound ridiculous, like this is the scene of the movie where the guy tries to get a hold of the long-lost son, you know, but this is that scene. And I think they have those scenes in movies because they’ true, because they really happen and you got to believe me this is really happening…See, this is the scene where you help me out…”
- Frank’s personal show-off to the journalist in the break of its ‘Seduce&Destroy’ course and before the interview starts.
- When Frank T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise) remains silent following the curious private questions of a journalist about his past, and once the journalist asks what he’s doing, he answers: ‘I’m quietly judging you’.
- When Linda Partridge (Julianne Moore) is trying to collect the ‘very heavy’ drugs in the pharmacy, and ends up screaming in the face of the humiliating and intruding attitude by the young pharmacist.
- The restaurant scene where Claudia Wilson Gator (Melora Walters) and Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly) go on and make their confessions, and end up kissing in the end.
- When Donnie Smith (William H. Macy) is in the bar, trying to impress his beloved barman Brad, talking about whether it’s dangerous or not ‘to confuse children with angels’.
- When Frank Mackey talks to his assistant that tells about his father and his nurse trying to reach him.
- The ‘Wise-up’ song sequence, which unifies all the characters , who begin to sing it separately. But just before the song there is Earl’s speech to his nurse Phil about his “fucking regrets”. After a while the camera tracks to other scenes, but Earl’s off-screen voice continues to speak, which finally gets complemented by the song. This song is especially important in conveying the parallel moods of the characters, because everyone has regrets and as in the song says “ it’s not going to stop,…’til you wise up…so just give up”. After the song, where Earl again and again complains about his mistakes and regrets that kills him; Claudia and Jim make a deal at the same time “not to do things that kill other people”. Maybe in a way they have the chance to wise up…
- When Frank Mackey arrives at the house of his father, sits and talks next to his dying bed and burst into tears.