As Sortilège—a friend who slips in and out of the pot-hazy life of Inherent Vice‘s protagonist, Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix)—indie musician Joanna Newsom is a vital presence. Sortilège is not only a character in Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest; she also provides its unconventional narration, explaining, for instance, “these were perilous times, astrologically speaking, for dopers.”
Inherent Vice, based on Thomas Pynchon’s novel, follows private investigator Doc through the paranoid, druggy world of 1970 Los Angeles as he investigates intertwining cases, meeting up with a collection of bizarre, sometimes hilarious characters along the way. Sortilège’s assured voice helps tie these threads together as she doles out hippie-eloquent exposition and knowledge.
The sound of that voice came to Newsom, a newbie to acting, through the book. “The spirit of the narrator of the book, even though it was a third person narrator, sort of spoke that way in my mind. I don’t know why,” Newsom told EW. “When Paul sent me the first fragment of narration and asked me to record it, the way I recorded it was the way my voice sounds in the movie.”