Earl’s Monologue in Magnolia

Towards the end of this over 3 hour behemoth of a movie, Earl Partridge has this crazy long monologue about the sins in his life. It lasts from time stamp 2:08:52 to 2:17:40. 11 whole minutes, which although doesn’t seem like much, is extremely long for a director or writer to dedicate the camera time to. In this monologue, Earl confesses to Phil his sins of cheating on his wife, leaving an illegitimate child to care for his mother at the age of 14. This monologue is one of the strongest example of the movie’s theme, the sins of the father pass to the son.

Earl starts off saying talking about his childhood love, Lily, and as he talks about this, the camera pans left. The director does this because Americans read left to right, so to the left would be backwards. This adds to the imagery of Earl telling a story about the past. Earl then starts talking about how he cheated on her over and over and saying, “I wanted to be a man, and I didn’t want her to be a woman.” He is starting to realize how horrible he acted in the past. Here, the camera stays at an eye-line level focused on Earl. He is telling his sins to everyone watching.

As the camera cuts back to Earl, he talks about how he left his illegitimate son at 14 years old to take care of his dying mother, and how horrible he feels about this action. The camera closes in on Earl to signify how important it is for this step in his revelation. He is feeling guilty about his past and how he acted.

Earl admits his sins to Phil and earnestly regrets his actions in his past. Earl later dies peacefully in morphine-induced bliss. In a movie full of death and suicide attempts, he is the only character to die peacefully. He also seems to be the only person who is honestly sorry for their sins. Is this movie a metaphor for how we should confess our sins? Are there more religious undertones in this movie?

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