“One of the fables on which Inherent Vice ruminates is The Long Goodbye, and the loping, unflustered movie that Robert Altman made of it, in 1973, with Elliott Gould as Marlowe. He, too, was looking for a vanished man with an English spouse, on the verge of the Pacific, and his search, like Doc Sportello’s, involved poking around a sanatorium for the mentally vexed, but what lent the puzzle its loose charm was the fact that Marlowe could only just be bothered to solve it, as opposed to staying home with his cat. At least there was a solution; to the ardent Pynchonite, however, making sense of any mystery makes no sense at all. The nailing of one crime will simply reveal another, deeper one, and then another, and so on, until you arrive at the vision of a society that is already cracked and crazed. Does Anderson stay loyal to that vision for two and a half hours? Absolutely. Will his audience be overjoyed to realize, around the ninety-minute mark, just how little of Inherent Vice is going to be wrapped up nice and neat? Hmmm.” — from Anthony Lane‘s New Yorker review of Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Inherent Vice.

Brilliant New Yorker illustration by Chris B. Murray.

How did Gould’s Marlowe manage to become one of the most appealing slacker shamuses in Hollywood history — half-shaven, loose shoes, J.C. Penney tie — while Joaquin Phoenix‘s Sportello instantly became one of the least appealing? I knew Doc would survive until the end of Inherent Vice, of course, but I honestly began saying to myself around the 45-minute mark, “This movie would be a lot more enjoyable if Pheonix could be clipped and Benicio del Toro or Owen Wilson or Martin Short could take over. Then we’d have something.”