By Megan Bianco
Since its festival debut last October, Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice has been getting many comparisons to Philip Marlowe films The Big Sleep (1946) and The Long Goodbye (1974). Despite the filmmaker’s resistance to the similarities, it’s hard not to see the influence. Revisiting the 1970s since his own Boogie Nights 17 years ago, and recasting Joaquin Phoenix after the underwhelming The Master (2012), Anderson offers one of the wildest and craziest mysteries of this season.
In 1970 Los Angeles, P.I. “Doc” Sportello (Phoenix) is visited by his old flame Shasta Fay (Katherine Waterston) in the middle of the night, asking for his help to put a stop to a plan to kidnap her rich boyfriend (Eric Roberts). Along the way to fulfilling Shasta’s favor, Doc quickly becomes involved with cops, suspects and victims played by Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro and Owen Wilson.
Jena Malone, Reese Witherspoon and Maya Rudolph also appear throughout the film. For those not familiar or prepared for Pynchon’s writing or Anderson’s new directing style, the irreverence and strange humor of the movie might be frustrating and confusing. But for those who are fans of the creators or the stellar cast, or are in just the mood for a satire on film noir, Inherent Vice won’t disappoint. Phoenix, Wilson and Witherspoon are funny and endearing on screen, while Brolin gives one of his most experimental performances to date. Anderson’s latest ensemble feature is his most fresh and original piece of celluloid in over a decade.