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I am super excited to talk to you about INHERENT VICE, the new movie from Paul Thomas Anderson and the first time a Thomas Pynchon novel has been filmed, because they're these complex genre-defying novels that talk about everything and nothing and are kind of unfilmable. The resulting film is one of the weirdest, bizarrest films of the year, and I can quite see why you would be totally weirded out by it. But to me this film is the bastard love child of Lebowski and LA Confidential with a strange warm fuzzy heart. It may not be as austere and brilliant as THERE WILL BE BLOOD or THE MASTER but is it's own crazy beautiful mess and well worth watching.
So what is the film about? It's a kind of film noir, with all the strangeness that goes along with that genre. It has a mood of craziness, corruption and seediness. There are rich men, damsels in distress, a maze of plot and you never quite know if you're going to make it out in one piece. Sometimes you don't know if the author or the director have a clue what's going on, and then the film just sort of ends. That's a little bit the case with INHERENT VICE. The first hour has momentum and drive and hilarity, and then it kind of drifts, but I think that's intentional. And then it goes dark and subversive and there's a very weird sex scene, and then it finishes up in a warm and happy place, sort of....
Joaquin Phoenix plays a hippie private investigator called Doc living in early 70s LA. His ex-girlfriend Shasta turns up and she tells him that her new rich real estate mogul lover's wife and her boyfriend are planning to put him in an asylum and take his money. Shasta is nervous and wants Doc to ask his new lover Penny, a DA (Reese Witherspoon) to help her. Anyways, the real estate mogul disappears, Shasta disappears, and so does another guy who used to be a drug addict who owed some money to the Black Gorillas, but is somehow involved with the real estate moguls Nazi bodyguards, and may be a snitch for the Feds or some right wing Reagan-Nixon group or....And then there's a drug cartel called Golden Fang and it's something to do with Orthodontists?
There are movies that have no plot. INHERENT VICE has too much plot and no plot. It also has lots of characters and we never figure out why half of them matter. Who's the sidekick that drives around with Doc (but can't drive?)
As I said, the first hour of this movie is very BIG LEBOWSKI. There's a hippie vibe, a kidnapping plot, a Jackie Treehorn vibe. The two scene stealers are Josh Brolin as a LAPD detective called Bigfoot and an actress who plays a hooker called Jade. And maybe it's just me being juvenile but a scene in profile with Bigfoot sucking on a chocolate ice-lolly is about the funniest thing I've seen on screen. And then the scene where Bigfoot interrogates Doc with his lawyer present - a brilliant cameo from Benicio del Toro - just calls to mind Benicio del Toro as Hunter S Thompson's Samoan lawyer in FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS - and that made me laugh. Those echoes of weirdness keep on coming - from casting younger less famous siblings of more famous actors, and giving characters Dickensian comedy names like Bambi and Dr Igor and Burt Stodger.
So there's a lot of childish humour here but as we move into the second hour of the film there is deep emotional stuff going on. And the theme of the movie is dark. It's trying to capture a mood and a moment when the hippie dream of the sixties turned sour. It's that Altamont and Hunter S Thompson vibe of the bad come-down and the stark reality of sexual exploitation and addiction and deep endemic corruption.
What can I say? INHERENT VICE has its longueurs and its weirdness but if you love LEBOWSKI and noir and you're willing to just go with it, then I think this is a superb film.
INHERENT VICE has a running time of 148 minutes and is rated R. INHERENT VICE opened last year in the USA and Canada. It opens this weekend in the UK, Ireland, Kenya and Singapore. It opens on February 5th in the Netherlands, on February 12th in Germany and Denmark, on February 19th in the Philippines, Argentina, Colombia, Lebanon, New Zealand, Portugal and Romania, on February 26th in Belgium, Greece and Italy, on March 6th in France, Austria, Finland and Norway, on March 12th in Australia, on March 20th in Spain and Sweden, on March 26th in Brazil, on April 3rd in South Africa, on April 10th in Estonia and Lithuania, on April 16th in Russia, and on April 24th in Ukraine and Poland.