Inherent Vice 

Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice is both hilarious and kind of tragic

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Inherent Vice
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There are those who will observe—and have observed already—that Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice is weird, rambling, fragmented, occasionally over the top and not at all concerned with pulling together all the threads of its sprawling detective narrative. And I nod in agreement at those people, and shrug, because those are features, baby, not bugs.

Anderson follows the misadventures of "Doc" Sportello, a private investigator living in the squalid splendor of ca. 1970 Gordita Beach, Calif. When his "ex old lady" Shasta Fay (Katherine Waterston) shows up at his door, claiming that the wealthy real-estate tycoon with whom she's having an affair may be the target of a murderous conspiracy, Doc jumps on the case—and immediately finds himself entangled with local police, the FBI, white supremacists, the widow of a dead musician and drug smugglers.

That's one messy case all right, and much of the fun involves watching Doc grow increasingly paranoid at the way every person he encounters seems to be part of the same huge mysterious web of intrigue. And Phoenix is magnificent in the role, showing off a zest for physical comedy he's never really indicated was in his bag of tricks before. Some of the year's biggest laughs can be found in his reaction to a photo of a baby, or his attempt at a "sneaky" walk.

The supporting cast adds enough great work—particularly Josh Brolin as the flat-topped cop who delights in tormenting Doc, and Waterston in a hippie-chick spin on the classic femme fatale—to make Inherent Vice a joy even if it were nothing more than a blissed-out comedy riffing on everything from Chinatown to The Big Lebowski. But its madness in fact becomes central to its world-view: both hilarious and kind of tragic, leaving you giggling helplessly at the exact same stuff that might have you crying once the high wears off.

INHERENT VICE

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Inherent Vice
Rated R · 148 minutes · 2015
Official Site: inherentvicemovie.com
Director: Paul Anderson
Producer: Paul Anderson, Joanne Sellar, Daniel Lupi, Scott Rudin, Adam Somner and Steven Mnuchin
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Martin Short, Jena Malone, Joanna Newsom, Eric Roberts and Sasha Pieterse
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What others are saying (8)

Indy Week Film review: The stoner noir of Inherent Vice is the only thing more confusing than Thomas Pynchon Imagine if Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker had directed The Big Sleep, says Neil Morris by Neil Morris 12/10/2014
Portland Mercury Altered States Getting stoned and getting lost with Inherent Vice. by Erik Henriksen 01/07/2015
Chicago Reader Paul Thomas Anderson gives us a Pynchonian epic to get lost in You don't just watch Inherent Vice, you wander around it. by Ben Sachs 01/07/2015
5 more reviews...
Creative Loafing Charlotte Inherent Vice provides a contact high Rating: *** by Matt Brunson 01/09/2015
Charleston City Paper You won't find the celebrated Boyhood on this list of 2014's best A calendar year is as arbitrary a way to recognize greatness as a numbered list is, especially in an era when so many people see movies in places other than theaters and in years other than the year of their release. by Scott Renshaw 12/31/2014
Colorado Springs Independent Doctor feelgood Inherent Vice comes fully loaded with twisted kicks by Daniel Barnes 01/07/2015
Charleston City Paper There's drugs and free love a'plenty in Inherent Vice, but the characters steal the show Clearly Paul Thomas Anderson has a thing for the storied eras of America's past. Boogie Nights welcomed in the rise of the porn industry during the flared-pant, disco-fueled '70s; the more nuanced The Master took up the arc of an L. Ron Hubbard-like charlatan in the wake WWII; while There Will be Blood negotiated the nasty, avaricious early roots of the American oil grab. by Tom Meek 01/08/2015
Connect Savannah Review: Inherent Vice A freewheeling orgy of misdirection (from Paul Thomas Anderson), misunderstanding (from the audience) and Method-tinged emoting (from an eye-popping cast). by Matt Brunson 01/06/2015

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