Magnolia (film)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Magnolia is a 1999 drama film, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. It interweaves nine separate yet connected storylines, about the interactions among several people during one day in the San Fernando Valley, in Los Angeles, California.

Overview

Magnolia starts with an introduction (narrated by an uncredited Ricky Jay) describing three events that set the mood for the movie by urging the audience to think about supposed coincidences which occur "all the time." The events, which are well-known urban legends in the universe of the film, are as follows:

  1. Sir Edmund William Godfrey, a resident of Greenberry Hill, London, is murdered outside his pharmacy by three vagrants by the names Joseph Green, Stanley Berry, and Daniel Hill. This was based on the murder of Edmund Berry Godfrey.
  2. A blackjack dealer, Delmer Darion, while scuba diving is accidentally picked up by a fire fighting airplane scooping water to put out a forest fire, and dies of a heart attack during the flight. The pilot of the plane, Craig Hansen, had met Darion a few days prior at the latter's casino, starting a fight with him after losing a hand of blackjack. The guilt and the measure of coincidence provokes the pilot to commit suicide.
  3. A 17-year-old boy, Sydney Barringer, attempts suicide by jumping off the roof of his apartment building; this attempt became a "successful homicide" when he was accidentally shot by his mother as he fell past his own apartment window. His parents regularly argued and threatened each other with a shotgun that was not normally kept loaded. Unbeknown to them, Sydney had loaded the gun a few days earlier hoping they would make good on their threats to kill one another. As a result, he unwittingly became an accomplice in his own murder. The irony here is that a newly installed protective netting for window washers on the building's exterior below their apartment, would have saved his life if he had not been hit by the shotgun blast that he himself had loaded.

The movie then goes on to introduce the main characters while Aimee Mann's version of Harry Nilson's "One" plays in the background:

  • Frank T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise), author of Seduce and Destroy, a self-help book for men to get women to sleep with them. Mackey's character was inspired by Ross Jeffries.
  • Linda Partridge (Julianne Moore), a woman dealing with her much older husband's terminal illness and feelings of guilt for her infidelity. She is Frank T.J. Mackey's stepmother.
  • "Quiz Kid" Donnie Smith (William H. Macy), who won a large sum of money on the television game show What Do Kids Know? in the 1960s, but whose adult life has gone downhill after appearing as a celebrity spokesperson.
  • Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman), a current contestant on What Do Kids Know?. His greedy father, an aspiring actor, capitalizes off of his son's success and constantly pressures him to win.
  • Phil Parma (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a kind, sympathetic and lonely nurse working for the terminally ill Earl Partridge.
  • Claudia Wilson Gator (Melora Walters), a young woman plagued by psychological problems and a cocaine addiction; daughter of Jimmy Gator.
  • Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall), host of What Do Kids Know?, who is dying of bone cancer. He seeks reconciliation with his daughter, Claudia.
  • Earl Partridge (Jason Robards), a wealthy television producer with terminal lung cancer. He is the estranged father of Frank T.J. Mackey and husband to Linda Partridge.
  • Officer Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly), a divorced, religious, and forthright police officer. While on patrol, Kurring often speaks to an imaginary camera, as if he were appearing on a reality TV series such as COPS.

The movie ends with the narrator urging the audience to think again about the coincidences mentioned in the intro, implying that the unlikely connections between the characters in the movie are similar.

Character relationships

Many of the characters have thematically similar stories:

The plot reveals all these relationships over a number of interlocking events, including:

  • A crime that investigators think was committed by the Worm (played by Orlando Jones in scenes that were deleted).
  • The broadcasting of a live episode of What Do Kids Know?, a quiz show that pits children against adults.
  • A noise complaint that leads to an awkward conversation, and eventually a date between Jim and Claudia.
  • Donnie's barroom conversation with an eccentric barfly, and his misguided attempts to woo the braces-wearing bartender, Brad. His love for him results in an attempt to steal money from the employer who fired him to pay for braces that he does not need.
  • An interview in which a reporter attempts to penetrate the emotional wall that Frank hides behind.
  • The last hours of Earl's life, which complicate Linda's life with a number of vital decisions and in which a desperate Phil attempts to fulfill Earl's wish to see Frank, the son who despises him.

Raining frogs and Exodus 8:2

At the end of the movie, a rare but precedented event occurs: frogs rain from the sky. While the plague of frogs is unexpected, there have been real-life reports of frogs being sucked into waterspouts and raining to the ground miles inland.

The movie has an underlying theme of unexplained events, taken from the 1920s and 1930s works of American intellectual Charles Fort. Fortean author Loren Coleman has written a chapter about this motion picture, entitled "The Teleporting Animals and Magnolia," in one of his recent books. The film has many hidden Fortean themes. The fall of frogs is merely one of them. One of Charles Fort's books is visible on the table in the library and there is an end credit thanking Charles Fort.

Another explanation could be the scene in which a boy named Dixon tells Jim that "when the sunshine don't work, the good Lord bring the rain in." A Bible verse frequently referenced and alluded to in the film, Exodus 8:2 (NIV), states that "If you refuse to let them go, I will plague your whole country with frogs" (In Exodus, the frogs are described as simply crawling out of the "waters of Egypt"). Many of the film's other strange occurrences, such as quotes that seem odd or out of place, can be similarly explained (see the link to Cigarettes and Red Vines' Magnolia page below for more information).

There are various references to Exodus 8:2, like when the humidity is recorded to be 82 percent. At the very beginning, the man being hanged bears a sign reading "82". The plane that kills Darion has "82" painted on the side, and at the poker table, the man asks for a two and gets an 8. In the "Jumping scene" of Sydney Barringer, to the left of Sydney along the roof border, "82" appears to be spelled out in some type of wire formation on the wall, his parents were arguing in room #682, and the forensics meeting is at 8:20. The phone number for "Seduce and Destroy" has 82 in it. At the beginning scene of What Do Kids Know, a fan is seen carrying a sign reading "Exodus 8:2" before an usher (Anderson in a cameo performance) removes the sign; one of the most concrete references towards that verse in the Bible. During the rain of frogs, a sign reading "Exodus 8:2" can be seen on the side of the street. Also, Jim's voice mailbox says that his automated answering machine number is "82." Anderson did not originally include these allusions in his screenplay; after Henry Gibson brought the passage to his attention, he worked it into the script.

Other repeated references to animal rain in the story include at least four different characters in different scenes using the cliché, "It's raining cats and dogs". The only character in the story who seems to be unsurprised by the unusual meteorological event is the child prodigy, Stanley. He calmly observes the falling frog silhouettes, saying “This happens”. This has led to the speculation that Stanley is seen as a prophet, allegorically akin to Moses, and that the "slavery" the movie conveys alludes to the exploitation of children by adults.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Magnolia (film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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