This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
James Healey’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
I believe this is my third time seeing Magnolia, and the third time definitely is the charm. I loved Magnolia the first and second time I saw it, but this viewing I was intent on doing my best to analyze Magnolia, mainly because my next film, "Anything"(working title), is heavily influenced by Magnolia. But goddamn, this third viewing gave me a whole new appreciation for the film.
I'm not really going to talk about the story itself, but the themes and all the "oh shit" moments that you might not have even realized PTA did. Probably the most obvious them is "daddy issues". Most of the main characters in the film had some sort of bad relationship with their father. Frank's father never gave a shit about him his whole life, Donnie's parent took his quiz money from him, Stanley's father pushed him too hard for the quiz show, and Claudia was molested by her father.
Another theme is loneliness. The opening song "One is the Loneliest Number" introduces the cast. Donnie is probably the loneliest of the entire cast. He is broke, has tons of debt, loses his job, and worst of all, everyone stops giving a shit about his "celebrity status". He has no one to care about him. The one man he loves, Brad the Bartender, doesn't really notice him either. Stanley is shown isolated by himself in the library twice during the film. It is also shown that people only care about him because of his intellect, much similar to how Donnie probably was as a child. Frank seems great at first, but when the reporter begins to ask about his family life, he gets defensive. When Frank comes face to face with him, Frank curses him out for being a terrible father leaving Frank on his own. Claudia being molested by her father leads to her downfall. She becomes a druggie and goes around what seems to be any guy. When she meets Jim, things seem to get better.
The last theme I would like to talk about is Exodus 8:2. "If you refuse to let them go, I will send a plague of frogs on your whole country." There are a few times this is hinted at in Magnolia. The first is the rap that little black kid raps to Jim:
"Presence. With a double-ass meaning gifts i bestow, with my riff and my flow, but you don't hear me, though. think fast think fast catch me yo because i throw what i know with a resonance, for your trouble-ass fiend in weening yourself off of the back of the shelf. Jackass, crackers, bodystackers, Dick-tooting niggers, masturbating to your triggers. Livin to get older, with a chip on your shoulder, except you think you got a grip, because your hip got a holster. Ain't no confessor, so, busta, you better just shut the fuck up. Try to listen and learn. Check that ego. Come off it, I'm the prophet, the professor, I'ma teach you about the worm. Who eventually turned to catch wreck with the neck of a long-time oppressor. And he's runnin from the devil, but the debt is always gaining, and if he's worth being hurt, he's worth bringin pain in. When the sunshine don't work, the good Lord bring the rain in."
The "rain" refers to the frogs in the last ten minutes of the film. The kid also mentions Worm who is his brother, and the man who killed the guy in the closet. The second to last sentence about debt could refer to Donnie as well. Back to Exodus. In the audience during the quiz show, a man briefly holds up a sign that says Exodus 8:2, and quickly has it taken down. Lastly, Stanley is seen studying in the library, some of the books include "Unusual Natural Phenomena", "Changing the Weather, and a book on Freemason.
Now to move on to the cleverness of PTA. At the very beginning the Narrator mentions the three men hanged named Green, Berry, and Hill. They commit a murder in front of a store called Greenberry Hill. After the narrator is done telling the side stories, one of the first scenes is Donnie crashing into the convince store at the gas station. Ironically at the end of the film he climbs a pole at the gas station, is hit by a frog, and falls down, being injured again.
So there you have it, my analysis of Magnolia, hope you enjoyed it (I might add more to it since I probably missed some stuff and I'm in a hurry).