Warning: This article is an analysis of the movie Magnolia and contains many spoilers.
Everyone who has watched the much-praised film «Magnolia» undoubtedly walked out of the theater with maybe a feeling of awe, but most likely an overwhelming confusion over its ending, especially the scene with the shower of frogs.
A key aspect to interpreting the true meaning of this film lies in its many references of Exodus 8:2 from the bible. The most obvious reference was in the scene right before the start of the Quiz show. A woman is seen holding a sign that clearly has the words «Exodus 8:2» written on it, but is promptly escorted out of the audience by security.
Below are other examples of references to the numbers 8 and 2 in the movie, as listed in the trivia section of imdb.com
o weather forecast: 82% chance of rain
o a gambler needs a 2 in blackjack but gets an 8
o the coil of rope when the boy commits suicide
o the first temperature reading
o the movie poster at the bus stop on Magnolia Blvd
o the placard on the hanged convicts
o Jim Kurring’s box number at the date hotline
o Sydney Barringer’s mother and father’s apartment number is 682
o the forensic science convention starts at 8:20
o Delmer Darion flips over a stack of cards to reveal the 8 through 2 of diamonds
o right after Jim Kurring sees Donnie Smith climbing up the building, you can see a flash of a sign on the side of the road that says «Exodus 8:2″ (it’s visible again when the frogs fall and hit Kurring’s car)
o the number on the firefighter’s plane.
o in Marcy’s mugshots, her criminal record number is 82082082082
o in the bar scene there is a chalkboard with two teams, the frog and the clouds, the score is 8 to 2
o spray painted on the cement as graffiti next to the boy.
o member of the game show crowd holds a placard with Exodus 8:2 written on it
o the kids were two days away from entering their eighth week as champions.
o Quiz Kid Donnie Smith won his 100 000 dollars on 28 April 1968
o The first two numbers of the Seduce and Destroy Hotline (1-877-TAME-HER) are 82.
o one of the hanged men has the 82 on his clothes
o Jim says he gets off work at 8:00, and Claudia suggests they meet 2 hours later for a date
And here is Exodus 8:2 —
And the Lord spake unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs.
Another important piece of the puzzle comes from Dixon, the young boy who raps to Jim after his discovery of the murders. The following is an excerpt from Dixon’s rap:
Check that ego, come off it, I’m the Prophet,
You’re living to get older with a chip on your shoulder.
He’s running from the devil, but the debt is always gaining,
When the sunshine don’t work, the good Lord bring the rain in.
Dixon calls himself the «Prophet» but he could be interpreted an extension of god. He takes Jim’s gun after it was lost, yet during the frog shower, the gun falls from the sky along with the frogs — a sign that the boy had some control over the events.
The second and third lines of the rap are warning Jim that he’s living to move higher («to get older») yet there is something burdening him. Dixon is telling Jim that what he is doing isn’t right and warning him to stop. However, Jim doesn’t listen to the rapper just like how the Pharaoh of Egypt did not listen to Moses. This message is not only meant for Jim, but it also symbolizes the wrongness in the lives of all the other characters. The last line warns that if God is ignored, he will bring on the rain.
An important key note is that the characters all admit their wrongs but can’t seem to get past them. Claudia, for example, is addicted to cocaine but can do nothing to stop, Linda feels terrible guilt for cheating on Earl and attempts to take her name off his will but can’t, and even Earl uses his final breaths to admit his mistreatment of his son and wife and pleads for forgiveness from Frank but he does not receive one.
The rain of frogs signifies God’s wake-up call to everyone. The rain of frogs — the extremely strange, almost absurd situation — was a way for God to tell everyone that they have done wrong and sinned. However, the shower is his message that he is always watching over the world and can intervene to help when help is needed. After the rain of frogs, the characters appear to either make peace with their problems and have succeeded or, in the example of Jimmy Gator’s death, failed. This shows that although god is there to help, not everything always works out perfectly and there are always the ones who are punished instead of saved.
Please note that this is not an official interpretation and the scene of the frog shower is among the most debated topic in the movie world. Accept my interpretation at your own discretion and form your own opinions on the matter, which is most likely what the writer P. T. Anderson had intended.