Repetitive Themes in Magnolia

Magnolia is a movie that ties together several different characters into one narrative. Before showing how they’re all related, we are switched between their stories. However, despite the initial apparent unrelatedness, there are several themes that are repeated across each character’s story. The first one I noticed was after the rain starts, everyone says it’s “raining cats and dogs”. I noticed this because it’s such an odd phrase. It’s well known, but not many people say it in common conversation from my experience.

As the film progresses, the different characters go through similar experiences at the same time. For example, as Jimmy struggles to speak on T.V., Stanley wets himself, Frank’s interview goes south, Claudia does cocaine while Jim waits for her, and Linda breaks down at the lawyer’s office. After this similarity, people begin to stand up for themselves, like Stanley and Linda, and they’re immediately asked “what’s wrong with you?”. These instances strongly hint to the audience that these characters are all connected. This technique also works to keep the tone of the film the same. It can get annoying when films separate narratives. A lot of quest/adventure movies will do this. The party gets broken up, and we switch between characters as they progress through their own struggles. If not done properly, this will lead to one scenario that is full of action and suspense, and another that is dull and monotonous. Magnolia does an excellent job of keeping the same atmosphere so that the emotions match.

Another odd repetition I noticed was the use of a Bible quote. When Stanley is on the T.V. show, there is a brief shot of the audience. Someone is holding a sign that says “Exodus 8:2”. Donnie also quotes Exodus as he vomits into a toilet, muttering about the sins of the father being passed to the son. Exodus 8:2 says “If you refuse to let them go, I will send a plague of frogs on your whole country”, by the way. This is a direct link to the events of the film. As I was trying to google the bible verse from the film, I found a website that points out that 8 and 2 are repeated throughout the film. The first weather forecast is an 82% chance of rain, a gambler needs a 2, but gets an 8, and it’s written on multiple signs and billboards throughout the film. What is the importance of this verse that it is subliminally hidden throughout the whole movie? What is its symbolism?

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