The loss of a certain kind of innocence… That’s always sort of fertile ground for a story.
— Paul Thomas Anderson
She hates when I do this and so do I, but things get twisted around in here. To say anything is to pretend like this sulking has some legitimate source; to say nothing is to continue sulking. She has asked if I’m O.K., which the answer is yeah, but the interrogative offspring are “what is O.K?” and “wait, am I even feeling anything right now?” which despite their facileness take up rather too much headspace and leave me quiet and only barely nodding. What has happened is simple and unimportant: I have seen a movie, one I expected to like, but one which, when it came right down to it, I didn’t, in fact, like. This event’s monumental lack of significance is a part of the problem. “Stop caring about it, right now.” To say this is to care, and round and round it goes.
I thought I would like Inherent Vice because I’ve always liked Paul Thomas Anderson’s movies. Or, I have since a high school media studies professor accidentally described Magnolia with a whole bunch of superlatives I’ve forgotten but which provided ample encouragement to pirate and watch,1 this high school teacher thus being in the awkward position of having told a sixteen year-old boy to watch a movie in which a sweaty Tom Cruise yells “TAME THE CUNT!” on more than one occasion. I have nothing but thanks for this recommendation. My reasons for this appreciation are either complex or else not very coherent: I tend to give a different answer every time I’m asked. Once, I said it eroded my preconceptions about Tom Cruise, John C. Reilly, and William H. Macy,2 and so therefore about actors in general, opening me up to a world of possibilities beyond my petty celebrity grievances. Another time I said I didn’t realize it wasn’t a standard two hours in length until a few minutes after it finished, at which point I realized bedtime had long since gone by. Some poor soul got an earful of me describing how it’s singularly effective at painting a broken and pained world and yet it still maintains—well perhaps not a happy ending, but some sort of hope. Someone else pretended to listen while I went on and on about whip-pans. One, some, or all of these explanations is or are probably true, but what’s most important in this context is that, whatever the reason(s), Magnolia made me feel something very particular, something that spurred me to watch the remainder of what was then Anderson’s filmography.3