Inherent Vice  is Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of a novel by Thomas Pynchon, who is apparently an author that nobody had been allowed to adapt before. But PTA did it, and who’s to say he failed? Not me for sure! Who can watch this movie and not fall in love with the antics and expressions of Joaquin Phoenix’s private eye Doc Sportello? Or just fall in love plain and simple with Katherine Waterston’s ghostly Shasta Fey, whose very presence is questionable? (I mean… she looks just like the narrator… whatever.) What you can’t do is stand on a rooftop, or a car hood, and orate exactly what happened. Maybe PTA can!
It’s a detective story! It’s one of those “noirs” where everyone talks all mysterious and cryptic-like, except for our friend Doc Sportello, who always speaks his mind. He’s on a hunt for the missing land developer Mickey Wolfman, played by Eric Roberts. He’s also keeping track of saxophonist Coy Harlingen, by Owen Wilson, in over his head in some officially shady police business. Also involved is a man with a swastika on his face, and a drug-smuggling boat.
Don’t worry about it, though. Lord knows I didn’t. Just look at Joaquin! He’s such a mix of fried and focused… he’s goofing around, but he’s never a goof. Watch him bounce off of Josh Brolin’s Detective Bigfoot, who’s just as out of his mind as Doc, but with none of the self-awareness. Watch him interact with himself… for all we know that’s the whole movie. Watch as Jena Malone shows off her new teeth as Hope Harlingen, Doc’s new client! Just don’t watch the plot, or you’ll be stuck staring at a blank space where the story used to be ten minutes ago.
Moto panacaku! Just take this movie, all of it, and take everything that happens in it, and just use that to figure out what Doc Sportello is all about. To me, that’s the best thing you can do. Make it a character study! I don’t think it’s supposed to be… but you’ll get him instantly. Let PTA’s loyal and energetic cinematographer Robert Elswit pull you by the ear around the beach cities of Los Angeles, and let Radiohead composer Jonny Greenwood rock you back and forth as violently as the screenplay does. Maybe the second time around, you can see it as an actual movie.
It makes no sense, and it’s pricelessly hilarious.