Review for The Long Goodbye
The Long Goodbye is a film that at times I cannot quite tell whether I enjoy or not. Based on Raymond Chandler's novel and featuring his most beloved character of Philip Marlowe it should be a dead cert and in some ways it is. If you recognise the character name, you are probably all geared up to see Humphrey Bogart come onto the screen as he did in The Big Sleep and you maybe a little confused seeing Elliott Gould wander into the picture. I say wander, as it seems his version (or Director Robert Altman's version) is just in the wrong place at the wrong time. This makes the film almost feel like a comedy and more akin to the Coen Brothers' The Big Lebowski.
Marlowe, after trying to buy catfood that his cat will eat, is visited by an old friend Terry Lennox who asks him to give him a lift to Tijuana. Next day the police tell him that Terry's wife has been murdered and they think Terry did it. Ony later they find Terry has committed suicide, leaving a note that confesses everything.
Not convinced, Marlowe starts to look for himself. In the middle of this he is hired by Eileen Wade to find her husband, alcoholic writer Roger. This he does in a clinic. While all this is going on, Marlowe is threatened by local gangster Augustine who tells him Terry stole money from him and he thinks Marlowe will know how to get it back. He threatens him in a very shocking way to show that he means business.
All these strings come together with Marlowe having to unravel them all to find out what is going on.
Now, at the very heart of it, the film is certainly watchable. It would be wrong to say that it is not. However, at times, as I say, I was utterly convinced that this was a comedy. Gould's performance is laid back and utterly out of place and at times his mumbled delivery felt like a cross between the voice overs that would accompany most of these films and just mad ramblings. It almost feels like he is still in the 1930/40s and has time traveled to the 1970s and is trying to adjust to the times.
My biggest problem with the film is that because of this tone I can't take much of the film seriously. And there are times such as the Coke Bottle scene with Augustine which is not being played for laughs. However, later a scene which involves a young Arnold Schwarzenegger could only be described as hilarious and in context of what's going on really shouldn't be. This makes the film difficult to watch and if they had just gone one way or the other it would have been fine, but the mix makes it very uneven.
Extras have been piled onto this disk and I have to say that if this was a film without it I probably wouldn't recommend it. As it is, the extras are pretty impressive. Rip Van Marlowe is an interesting making of for the film, though the only people commenting are Director Robert Altman and Elliott Gould. This is a nice mix of stories and does cover a lot about the creation of the film.
Five interviews are nice from the likes of Elliott Gould, Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond discussing the making of the film, David Thompson talking about Robert Altman, Tom Williams on Raymond Chandler and Maxim Jakubowski about the Hard Boiled Fiction that the Marlowe universe took place in. All of these are nice ways to get different aspects of the film and I think the only aspect that could have been improved with an interview would be one with John Williams about his music and the many varied uses of the song The Long Goodbye which he composed with Johnny Mercer.
Robert Altman: Giggle and Give In is a great documentary that covers Altman's career up to 1996. Though a good documentary, it is a shame that there is no updated version looking at his later work including Gosford Park, which some could say is almost the test run for writer Julian Fellowes' Downton Abbey.
Finally we have the trailer and radio spots which are pretty nice way to wrap it all up.
The Long Goodbye really should be a great film, but it's only a good film. I enjoyed watching it and even for a huge fan of Chandler I found this take on the Marlowe character to be fun and interesting. Unfortunately, the film around the character is simply not strong enough and when you break it down you realise that nothing much happens. Despite this, you may find some enjoyment in the film and certainly if you are a fan the extras on the disk more than make this a set worth buying.