Magnolia is a mesmerizingly dark movie with an ensemble cast of intersecting characters. A number of the plot lines involve the people surrounding two men who have cancer, and death, resentment, regret and alienation are large themes.
The different scenes all take place in the same day in LA, and it has a wonderful, orchestral feeling, like you are watching different movements from a whole piece. It is not always great, but it comes together very well, with the mood sustained throughout by the music (mostly Aimee Mann) and the dramatic intensity of each scene.
Some of the acting was a bit over the top (I wasn't crazy about Julianne Moore or William H. Macy in this, although usually I think they are outstanding; here they seemed to be overdoing it a bit). Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance as the tender nurse, Phil Parma, was incredibly moving; and Tom Cruise as the alpha male self help guru pushing a course called Seduce and Destroy was also a stand out.
Magnolia is three hours long, and it never drags. There are some lovely and strange moments, such as when a song is playing in the background and one by one each character is singing with it. I also very much liked the raining frogs, which I know some people didn't care for at the time the movie was first released, in 1999. I thought it added a surreal and marvelously ugly element to the beautiful whole.