In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles detective Larry “Doc” Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.
Director Paul Thomas Anderson is a filmmaker who was born and raised in California and his love for the state comes across in many of his movies: “Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia,” “Punch-Drunk Love” and now, “ [Inherent Vice](movie:608094)” The movie is based on the book of the same name by Thomas Pynchon and takes place in 1970 drug-fueled Los Angeles where private investigator Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend, Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston). What director Anderson accomplishes so successfully from the get-go, is that when we first meet Doc, he is clearly a pothead and not above snorting the occasional line of coke but as the film moves along, we are never quite certain if the events transpiring around him, are real or if they are hallucinogenic episodes in Doc’s pot-filled imagination.
And the genius part of it all is, Doc isn’t sure either. He carries a little red notebook which he scribbles in occasionally and when he has moments of doubt or paranoia, he scribbles those thoughts into the notebook so he can read them later, when he’s not under the influence. When Shasta comes to Doc and informs him that she is now having an affair with Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts), a real-estate mogul, she asks him to help thwart a plot supposedly devised by Mickey’s wife Sloane (Serena Scott Thomas) and her lover Riggs (Andrew Simpson), to have him institutionalized. Along the way, Doc meets Lt. Det. Christian F. “Bigfoot” Bjornsen (Josh Brolin), a hard-nosed cop who moonlights as an actor on the TV show “Adam-12″ and holds himself in very high esteem.
Things begin to get crazy when a former prison inmate, Tariq (Michael Kenneth Williams), comes to Doc and asks him to track down Glen Charlock (Christopher Allen Nelson), one of Mickey’s bodyguards that he claims owes him money after their time in prison. When Glen winds up dead and Doc wakes up next to his body, surrounded by Lt. Bjornsen and his entire police squad, it throws a spanner into Doc’s investigation but also an unlikely pairing between him and Bjornsen. As the plot thickens, Doc has a gut instinct that Mickey might have faked his own death to get away from everything but he has to try and convince Bjornsen of this before he will help in his investigation. One of the things I love about Paul Thomas Anderson, is his ability to shoot his movies in unbroken scenes.
One in particular, has Doc and Shasta together in Doc’s living room and the scene goes on for well over 10 minutes but the camera never cuts away, instead, we watch two actors bounce back and forth off of each other and the scene is absolutely flawless. Mr. Anderson has quite the gift for realizing terrific characterizations in each of his movies and while the film does slow right down at times, it is the performances from the entire cast, which help propel it forward and force you to overlook any minor subplots and sluggish narrative. There are cameos galore throughout the movie, ranging from Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson and Maya Rudolph to Martin Short and Benicio Del Toro and they are all at the top of their game.
Mr. Anderson is known as a true independent filmmaker. He writes and directs and shoots his movies and also designs the posters and artwork for the film’s publicity and promotional purposes. With “Inherent Vice,” Mr. Anderson has created yet another glorious character-driven vehicle and makes it virtually impossible for you to pick one performance over another because you then start thinking about the other actors and you realize they were all great too and there are very few filmmakers in the world today, who can accomplish that. Initially, you walk away from “Inherent Vice” not knowing what to make of it but like coming down from a narcotized high, the more you think back on the movie, the more it makes sense, especially the small things you took for granted the first time you saw it. Highly Recommended.
In Theaters January 9th
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