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There is the story of a boy genius, and the game show host, and the ex-boy genius.

There is the story of the dying man, his lost son, and the dying man's wife, and the caretaker.

And there's the story of a mother, and the daughter, and the police officer in love.

And this will all make sense in the end.

A 1999 drama film about dysfunctional people in Los Angeles, with Loads and Loads of Characters (as the page quote illustrates), written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood) and partly inspired by the songs of Aimee Mann. Told in a series of interlocking stories. Known for being over three hours long, and for possibly the most non-sequiter third-act twist of all time, as well as for getting an Oscar Nomination for Tom Cruise.

The title refers to the flower, which have many petals going off in different directions, but which are all connected in the back.


Tropes include:

  • Abusive Parents: One of the themes of the movie.
    • Earl Partridge, who abandoned his wife and son.
    • Donnie Smith's parents used the money he earned during his time in What Do Kids Know?
    • Jimmy Gator quite likely molested his daughter Claudia.
      • It's hard to say with certainty. She's a drug addict, which could be her response to such an event, or warped her memory into believing it. When confronted, however, his only reply is an apparently sincere claim that he doesn't remember, which is frightening on its own.
    • Rick Spector constantly forces, manipulates and guilt-trips his son to win. Like Donnie's parents, Rick profits from his son's efforts.
    • The parents of the other two quiz kids.
  • As the Good Book Says...: The Arc Numbers 8 and 2 appear throughout the film. They refer to Exodus 8:2, in which God calls the plague of frogs against Egypt. The film climaxes with just such a plague falling over Los Angeles.
    • Also, contains a subversion with the line "And the book says, we may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us," spoken by multiple characters. The book in question is not the Bible, but The Natural History of Nonsense a 1946 anti-superstition book by English professor and game-show host Dr. Bergen Evans.
      • When first we see Stanley in the library simultaneously contemplating multiple books, The Natural History of Nonsense is among them; it is in the center-right, and has a blue cover. (Perhaps on the big screen--or in HD--the book's appearance is not as difficult to discern.)
    • Apparently the powers that be weren't aware of the Biblical connections to the rain of frogs. Once they were informed, they decided to sneak in the 8 and 2 references all over the place.
  • Child Prodigy: Stanley Spector. Donnie Smith was once this, but is now an Ineffectual Loner.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Most of the film's characters could fall under this trope (Good examples are Marcy and Claudia's beginning scenes).
    • However, none of them can seem to reach the extent that Linda Partridge does with this trope. She says the word "fuck" in virtually every scene she's in, and it's usually never uttered just once.

  Linda Partridge (to the pharmacist #1): You motherfucker. You motherfucker, you fucking asshole, who the fuck are- who the fuck do you think you are? I come in here, you don't know me, you don't know who I am, what my life is, and you have the balls, the indecency to ask me a question about my life? (to pharmacist #2) And fuck you too, don't you call me lady!... I have sickness all around me, and you fucking ask me my life? What's wrong? Have you seen death in your bed? In your house? Where's your fucking decency? And that I'm asked fucking questions, what's WRONG? Suck my dick! That's what's wrong! And you! You fucking call me lady!

  • Creator Cameo: P.T. Anderson is a member of the "What Do Kids Know?" crew.
  • Crowd Song: "Wise Up", which manages to combine this with Lonely Piano Piece, for an effect that depending on your perspective is either Crowning Music of Awesome or a total Narm.
  • The Danza: Luis Guzman has a role as a contestant on "What Do Kids Know?" named Luis Guzman.
  • Deleted Scene / What Happened to the Mouse?: We never really find out what was going on with the dead guy in the closet, or what the boy's confusing rap monologue ("I just told you who did it!") is about, or who "The Worm" is. In fact The Worm, played by Orlando Jones, is the boy's father, and the murderer. All his scenes were cut from the film, and he appears only as the mysterious hooded pedestrian Officer Jim chases before Jim loses his gun.
    • Especially notable in that this is a rare deleted scene that's not available on any DVD release.
  • Deus Ex Machina: The plague of frogs. Is also Weather Dissonance.
  • Ensemble Cast
  • Gainax Ending: The rain of frogs.
  • Glory Days: Quiz Kid Donnie Smith's childhood stardom.
  • Gold Digger: Linda Partridge. She married Earl for his money, but then fell in love with him...as he was dying.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Frank T.J. Mackey. "Respect… the cock! Tame… the cunt!"
    • Eventually revealed to be something of a subversion. Mackey's real hatred is for his father (and himself, in that he loves and leaves them just as his father did), and part of the reason he treats women poorly is because he can't stand the thought of getting close enough to one that he'd love them the way he loved his mother.
  • Hyperlink Story
  • I Thought That Was: It's not about flowers.
  • Jerkass: Frank T. J. Mackey and Rick Spector.
  • Jukebox Musical: Sort of. Actually only has one musical number.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: See This Is the Part Where below.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: 10 main characters and numerous others.
  • Melodrama: Serious example.
  • Mysterious Parent: Inverted. Dying television producer Earl Partridge is looking for his long-lost son. It turns out to be Frank T. J. Mackey.
  • Production Posse: Cruise and Robards are the only principal players who did not also appear in Anderson's previous film, Boogie Nights.
  • Promotion to Parent: Stanley, hurrying to get ready for school, reminds his father they're out of dog food: promptly--and almost imperceptibly--establishing which member of the Spector household is fully-engaged and responsible. In the green room--after the on-air meltdown of the show's host, and its brightest contestant--Daddy throws a tantrum (and a chair). Role reversal complete: as a parent, Rick has been invisible.
  • Rape as Drama / Parental Incest: Claudia Gator's backstory (possibly; see above).
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Aimee Mann's "Wise Up" was originally written for Jerry Maguire, and several of the other songs were meant for her album Bachelor No. 2, which was recorded before the movie but due to record-company problems not released until afterwards.
  • Repetitive Name: Solomon Solomon, Donnie Smith's boss.
  • Sensei for Scoundrels: Frank T.J. Mackey.
  • Shout-Out: Several lines are quoted or paraphrased lyrics from Aimee Mann songs, the most obvious being the opening line of "Deathly":

  Claudia Gator: Now that I've met you, would you object to never seeing me again?

  Phil: I know this sounds silly, and I know that I might sound ridiculous...like this is the scene of the movie...where the guy is trying to get a hold of the long-lost son, y'know, but this is that scene. This is that scene. And I think they have those scenes in movies because they're true. Y'know, because they really happen. And you gotta believe me, this is really happening. I mean, I can give you my number and you can go check with whoever you gotta check with and call me back. But do not leave me hanging on this. Please. I'm just -- please. See...this is the scene of the movie where you help me out.

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