Magnolia and Passover

The other night, for some background and a little dinner companionship, I plugged in one of my favorite movies: Magnolia. If you’ve never seen, it’s a must see. There’s a lot going on in this movie. It’s so rich with layers and dimensions that I don’t know how many times I’ve seen it and I just now really got it. And what timing (Passover). The movie is basically about personal Exodus. (I saw all the “8” and “2” references pointing to Exodus 8:2:

If you refuse to let them go, behold, I will plague all your borders with frogs.

It’s about all of these people suffering at the hands of past decisions or experiences (i.e, “pharaohs”) that still enslave them. And their lives are just spiralling downward and they just keep making things worse for themselves because they don’t know how to break out of it. And, at the climax of the movie, when it starts to pour frogs from the sky, everyone either suddenly gets a glimpse of a different, better life or the falling frogs stop them from making their next really bad mistake.

And, of course, there’s the rapper kid at the beginning of the movie (who cryptically rats his murderous father out to the cop). His rap is about running from a “long time oppressor”. And he sums it up by saying, “If sunshine don’t work, then the good lord bring the rain in.”

Like, if you can’t snap out of your sorry ass patterns when the sun is shining, then the “good lord” will make it rain and see if that snaps you out of it. And ain’t that so true? I mean, how many times have we all hit some new low and we could have sat there whining about our misfortune but instead we have an epiphany or find some inner strength we didn’t know we had? And then slowly but finaly we turn in a new direction.

Duh. You could have knocked me over with a frog.

Edit: OK, you are probably all saying, “But what about Stanley the quiz kid”? You’re right: Stanley isn’t part of this self-oppressing pattern. He’s wise beyond his years. And, as Donny implies, “No, it is not dangerous to confuse children with angels.”

Now, can someone explain to me the title of the movie?


6 thoughts on “Magnolia and Passover

  1. Possibly my favorite movie of all time. Your observation of its relevance to Passover is wonderful – might require a viewing tonight, especially since it’s something I turn to in hard times. The part that has hit me most the last few times I’ve seen it is when John C. Reily is searching for his gun in the rain and he’s terrified and crying, and he just calls out “don’t leave me here alone”. Such a universal and painfully bare and honest thing.

    The name… It takes place, as do all of his movies, in the San Fernando Valley. Magnolia Blvd. is one of the streets that runs across most of it, east-west, and I believe that’s where the street scene takes place when the frogs start falling. (He may have some more specific association with it that I don’t know about.)

    I take the Magnolia exit every day to get to work, and I’m looking at the Blvd. right now.

    • Ooh – at the Fist findraiser last year, I got to tell Bill Macy and Felicity Huffman how much I admired their work in Magnolia specifically, and they were very gracious. (Felicity said she’d forgotten she was in it, but I think her character is fascinating in the way she seems the closest to almost being able to relate to Stanley. Of course, she falls painfully short.)

    • he part that has hit me most the last few times I’ve seen it is when John C. Reily is searching for his gun in the rain and he’s terrified and crying, and he just calls out “don’t leave me here alone”. Such a universal and painfully bare and honest thing.

      That scene hits me in the gut, hard. So painfully bare.

      I love this movie. Now I’m going to have to see it. I’ve read the script a few times, too – it’s just a fascinating piece.

      • PT Anderson is #1 on my list of people to work with.

        And my very favorite Friday night activity is to see Jon Brion at Largo – he does all the music for all the PT Anderson films.

        Next time either or both of you are here on a Friday night, we’ll go 🙂

  2. Great movie! I love this film. Sometimes it’s very hard to accept that it takes hardships to change ourselves and our lives, and you’re right in that this film does a very good job of showing that.

    My personal favorite line from the film is, “I’m quietly judging you.”

    Here are some interesting facts about the film that I found on

    -The title “Magnolia” not only refers to Magnolia Blvd in LA, where much of the movie takes place, but is also similar to the term Charles Fort (who is referenced many places in this movie) coined for a hypothetical region where things that fall from the sky come from – “Magonia”.

    -SPOILER: Paul Thomas Anderson has said that he was unaware that the story of frogs falling from the sky is in the Bible (he took it from Charles Fort’s writing) when he wrote the screenplay. The Bible story of the plague of frogs was brought to his attention by Henry Gibson prior to filming. After he became aware of the story, Anderson worked references to Exodus 8:2 into the movie.

    -SPOILER: When the frogs are falling, we see a caption on a picture in Claudia’s apartment, “but it did happen”. And it did. This happens when storms pass over a lake teeming with frogs, picking them up and dumping them elsewhere. This happened in the town of Villa Angel Flores in Mexico after a tornado picked up a cluster of toads and dropped them over the town one evening in June, 1997.

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