Inherent Vice
Image: Wilson Webb / Warner Bros.
Joaquin Phoenix in 'Inherent Vice'
Inherent Vice
Our Rating
3 Stars - Good
Average Rating
 
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Mpaa Rating
R (For drug use throughout, sexual content, graphic nudity, language and some violence.)
Directed By
Paul Thomas Anderson
Run Time
2 hours 28 minutes
Cast
Joanna Newsom, Katherine Waterston, Joaquin Phoenix, Jordan Christian Hearn
Theatre Release
January 09, 2015 by Warner Bros.

You could try to summarize the plot of Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice, but it's almost beside the point.

If you were to try, though: it is 1970 in Gordita Beach, a (fictional) town on the edges of Los Angeles. Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is a broke stoner and private investigator whose ex-girlfriend Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston) comes by to tell him a bunch of paranoid-sounding yarns about missing millionaires he has to check out. There are also Aryan Brotherhood bodyguards and Black Panthers, and there's Josh Brolin playing the straight-man cop Bigfoot Bjornsen and pretty women and a shadowy Chinese syndicate, maybe, called Golden Fang, or else they are just wealthy dentists.

Inherent Vice is sunshine noir that strongly evokes Robert Altman's 1973 The Long Goodbye, in which a hapless California detective isn't totally amazing at his job and seems to squint at the sun and get distracted a lot. This is unsurprising—Anderson has long cited Altman as one of his influences and was an additional director on Altman's last film, A Prairie Home Companion.

Just as The Long Goodbye is based on a 1953 Raymond Chandler novel, Anderson's film is based on a Thomas Pynchon novel published in 2009. And that's not where the similarities end.

(If a whiff of the term “postmodernism” makes you break out in hives, abandon ship now, because that's what we're about to talk about.)

Pynchon is one of the most well-known of the postmodern novelists, embodying some of the most prevalent features of the literary era: name-checking commercial brand names as a critique of capitalism; an emphasis on form over content; and, most importantly, a mining of the past for ...

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