Apparently I'm going against the grain in saying that Magnolia didn't rock my world. It's not that I didn't like it; I enjoyed it very much, actually. But it's fatally flawed.
High expectations always ruin movies, so I generally try to go in with as blank of a slate as possible. But Magnolia breaks this by establishing expectations in the first few minutes of the film. It tells a couple of stories of coincidence, where all the pieces fall together in some sort of sublime harmony. The feature that follows is supposed to be another such tale, but it's not. It's a great story, but it in no way fits into the pattern of the first couple vignettes. This breaks the entire experience. For the entirety of the film I was ready for some grand connection which never happened. The movie set my expectations and failed to meet them.
If I could ignore what the movie told me it would be about, It'd be much happier. But disappointment is hard to overcome. Which is too bad, because it really is an exceptionally well told story. The many storylines are all interesting, and the way in which they are stitched together is truly masterful. The emotion from one story stays with you as you transition to the next story, and it tints it every so appropriately. It's as if the threads are finishing each other's sentences. From a storytelling perspective it's amazing, but of course that is a separate thing from the storylines being naturally connected. See, I really can't get over it. Those initial vignettes were charming, but they're out of place and in the end cripple the potential of this brilliant film.
Expectations are dangerous, but let me try to use their power for good. Watch this movie, but don't expect it to go anywhere transcendent. The movie will tell you differently, but don't listen to it. It lies!