Friday, January 09, 2015

"Inherent Vice", latest work of Paul Thomas Anderson, based on a dense novel by Thomas Pynchon, not as engaging as earlier films

Drugs!  That’s what “Inherent Vice” seems to be about.  Ross Perot would not approve, but neither would Richard Nixon.  This film is the latest from Paul Thomas Anderson (“There Will Be Blood”, "The Master"), based on the novel by Thomas Pynchon, and had a limited release at Christmas, general release starting today.
The style has a dusting of David Lynch, but unlike the case of some films by earlier director, I had trouble getting into this one, or identifying with any of the characters.
The film is set around Venice CA in 1970, and has an almost minimalist look at times (it’s shot in standard aspect).  The trial of the Manson family are always in the background.  The protagonist is private eye Larry “Doc” Sportello, played by a grizzled and sloppy Joaquin Phoenix, who at one time was going to “retire”.  He is no Magnum P.I.   In the opening scene, his girl friend Shasta (Katherine Waterston), in an affair with a real estate tycoon Mickey (Eric Roberts).  Mickey’s wife (Serena Scott Thomas) and her own boyfriend Riggs (Andrew Simpson) want to have Mickey kidnapped and involuntarily committed to a mental institution. Sportello’s misadventures will bring him into contact with an iconoclastic detective, “Bigfoot” Bjornsen (Josh Brolin).  Reese Witherspoon appears as the Deputy DA Penny Kimball, and Owen Wilson plays the youthful musician Coy, whose knowledge of a secondary plot complicates things – but this is Pynchon.

There is a humorous line at some point about getting things "for free".
The film is filled with enough iconoclastic images, like a glass building on the beach shaped like a phallus, and lots of old-style cop cars.  But the look of life in southern California then seems substandard.  I had some job interviews there in late 1969 before getting out of the Army, and it looked better than this.
The official site is here.  Although this film is obviously intended for the adult “independent” market, Warner Brothers, unlike other studios, still does not brand its releases differently.  I saw this at Regal Ballston before a small Friday afternoon gathering, which found the film funny.
Wikipedia attribution link for Venice CA picture. 

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