Inherent Vice


Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice pairs the hyper-literate cogitations of Thomas Pynchon with Anderson’s own rhapsodic storytelling. This film is based on Pynchon’s 2009 novel about a 1970 LA stoner/private investigator named Doc (Joaquin Phoenix), who is commissioned by his ex-girlfriend (Katherine Waterston) to foil a plot to commit her current lover (Eric Roberts) to a mental institution. Conflicted about her request but rendered cooperative by drugs and hope, Doc investigates and stumbles upon dirty cops (Josh Brolin) missing persons (Owen Wilson), dead informants, Aryan Nation bodyguards, pervy dentists (Martin Short)  and a mysterious shipping enterprise named Golden Fang. All this may or may not be connected to anything of significance — in fact the story itself may be more about the journey than the destination — but it’s a trip watching it and hearing Pynchon’s wonderful prose (or Anderson’s approximation of it). Anderson has not directed nearly as many feature films (7) as I feel he has. I think his impact outweighs his output because his productions are evocative and provocative, colorful and dense. Maybe in some cases too layered, containing one ironic moment or coincidence too many. Inherent Vice, the term refers to the nature of an object that renders it uninsurable, is a fresh cinematic experience that is probably best enjoyed as free jazz — as waves of creative expression. Recommended but contains carpet and drapes nudity, sex talk and endless drug use.

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