Thomas Pynchon has written eight acclaimed novels, but no one had the brass to adapt one for the screen until Paul Thomas Anderson tackled Inherent Vice. The director’s second consecutive collaboration with Joaquin Phoenix was the centerpiece gala at the New York Film Festival, where it made its world premiere on Saturday. If the trailer for the film gave off a Big Lebowski vibe, that’s partially because both films are at least partially inspired by The Big Sleep, the classic 1946 noir with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. “I saw The Big Sleep and it made me realize I couldn’t follow any of it,” said Anderson, at a post-screening press conference. “And it didn’t matter, because I just wanted to see what was going to happen next anyway.”
The plot of Inherent Vice is equally impenetrable, a tangled web strewn with vivid characters from 1970 Los Angeles. Phoenix plays ‘Doc’ Sportello, a constantly buzzed private eye who’s drawn into a case of coincidences by the beauty who broke his heart, Shasta (Katherine Waterston). She’s been having an affair with a married billionaire (Eric Roberts) whose adulterous wife might want to put him away in a mental asylum in order to get all his money. When both Shasta and her billionaire boyfriend go missing, and Doc awakes from a blow to his head next to a dead body, he has to handle cops and killers, lawyers and sax players, Nazis and coke-headed dentists, and two mysterious entities known as the Golden Fang that may or may not have anything to do with each other.
The film is filled with humor, even as the stakes go up, the characters are stripped bare, and the haze of drug-use rises to fever-dream pitch. (There’s one sequence, with Martin Short’s unscrupulous dentist, that echoes the antsy psychedelia of Alfred Molina’s firecracker scene in Boogie Nights.) “Which is what I love so much about Paul’s work,” said Maya Rudolph, who plays Doc’s secretary. “It’s anything and everything, and yet it’s always his. It allows a scene like in Dr. Blaknoids office to be crazy and then something else to be dark and mysterious.” READ FULL STORY