Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Katherine Waterston, Josh Brolin, Eric Roberts, Benico Del Toro, Jena Malone, Owen Wilson
Most people either love or hate Paul Thomas Anderson’s movies; Boogie Nights and Magnolia were both Oscar nominated films. Anderson’s work evolved with the debut of Punch Drunk Love (showcasing Adam Sandler in his first serious role) and then again with the best picture nominee There Will Be Blood, earning Daniel Day Lewis a second Academy Award. In 2012 The Master started another shift in tone and narrative, and of course more nominations for the actors. Inherent Vice is Anderson’s 7th film and least impressive.. With another stellar cast, Anderson is the first director to adapt a novel by National Book Award winner Thomas Pynchon.
It’s 1970’s beachfront Los Angeles and Doc Sportello (Phoenix) lives in a haze; when he isn’t being a private eye, he is either snorting, smoking or huffing. When a vison of his ex-girl Shasta (Katherine Waterson) appears in the doorway of his bungalow, he doesn’t recognize her dressed in “mainland” clothes, but she needs help getting out of a dire situation. After the smoke clears and the SoCal sun rises, the renaissance detective begins his investigation into a real estate mogul’s (Eric Roberts) disappearance, butting heads with local conservative law enforcement (Brolin) and stumbling on quite a web of conspiracy.
Anderson’s own twisted sense of humor and Phoenix’s ability to literally fall all over the place keep you from walking out of the theater, but just barely
I would venture to say the reason Pynchon hasn’t been adapted before (he has been writing since the 60’s) is that the complexity and difficulty of his work isn’t vastly appealing, nor is it easy to adapt on the screen. Anderson seems to be up for the challenge; it’s a similar feeling to Sofia Coppola’s work, personal interest in subject matter. There are so many nicknames and characters; thankfully, almost all of them are played by big names so you don’t have to remember them. It’s comical in its own way due to the irony of the writing, Anderson’s own twisted sense of humor and Phoenix’s ability to literally fall all over the place keep you from walking out of the theater, but just barely.
What Inherent Vice lacks in structure it substitutes for endless bouts of mindless dialogue about theories and motivations rarely advancing the story. Actually ¾ of the way through the 140 minute film the investigative part of the narrative is all but dropped; Doc is so high on grass that he can’t think straight. We never really cared about the case Doc is trying to solve, though; it’s a backdrop for Anderson to explore the era that he seems more interested in than we do. If all of Anderson’s films are more like an experience, then this is probably the worst experience I have had with the director. I didn’t care for the score, sets, and even the cinematography feels so much weaker than his previous work.
Acclaimed director Paul Thomas Anderson’s weakest film yet.