Inherent Vice, PTA’s ambitious adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s stoner classic, reminds one of his first three films – Hard Eight in that it belonged to the broader crime genre, Boogie Nights in its throwback to a lost era and Magnolia in its bold extravagance; the similarities, however, end there, because, like each of his other 7 movies, this too was an absolutely distinctive work in all possible respects. The excellent evocation of 70s mood and atmosphere – the carefree zeitgeist and laidback charm of the Hippie movement, and the tenuous feud between the counterculture spirit and reactionary conservatives – along with the grimy, sweltering ambience, and pulpy, sordid tale of gnawing human corruption ensured it keeps one captivated; however, the overly labyrinthine plotting and unrestrained self-indulgence made it tad contrived and incoherent. Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is a pot-smoking LA PI who prefers living in hallucinogen induced trance between investigations. He’s awakened from his dazed stupor, however, when his bewitching old flame Shasta (Katherine Waterston), who he still holds a torch for, mysteriously appears out of nowhere into his messy shack, informing him about his affair with a real estate tycoon and land shark, who his sultry wife and her boyfriend want to have committed into an insane asylum. And the nasty affair grows only murkier with the entry of neo-Nazi bikers, heroin addicts and a vicious underworld syndicate leaving a trail of dead bodies. Phoenix was superb as the dopey gumshoe, as was his deadpan camaraderie with a hulking, violent, civil rights violating cop played by a terrific Josh Brolin. The ensemble cast of the languorously paced film also comprised of Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson and Benecio del Toro, among others.
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Genre: Crime Drama/Neo-Noir/Mystery