The best mystery stories are really about the mystery. A detective tries to reverse-engineer a crime — who did what to get us here? — and finds it only leads to other crimes, other secrets. In the end, the tale's not about the destination. It's about the trip.
Set in the summer of 1970 Los Angeles, right after Charles Manson had murdered the California dream in its beds, Paul Thomas Anderson's sprawling new film has, as its hero, Doc Sportello, a chain-smoking pothead private investigator with a missing-person case to investigate.