Inherent Vice (2014)

Cast includes: Joaquin Phoenix (Her), Josh Brolin (W.), Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris), Hong Chau (Treme), Martin Short (Weeds), Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line)
Writer/Director: Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, The Master)
Genre: Crime | Drama | Comedy (148 minutes) Novel by Thomas Pynchon

Huffington Post

1970... Doc now calls Gordita Beach home. “I need your help, Doc.” [Just a name... Doc's a private eye.] “This isn’t my office,” he points out. “I thought it might be better for everyone if it looked like a secret rendezvous.” Sortilege tells a kind of convoluted story about owing 5 grand, being told not to worry and her suspicions about a plot to “commit him to a looney bin.” Oh, and there’s something about Michael Wolfmann… a real “big shot.” “How do I reach you,” Doc asks. “You don’t... don’t let me down, Doc.”

Doc still keeps office hours at a nearby medical clinic, even though his only connection to medicine is the amount of mind-altering drugs he consumes. His career and his personal life haven’t benefited from the drug-induced haze he finds himself in most days. Breaking up with Shasta was probably a mistake, too... their horoscopes were a near perfect match. Anyway, more about Wolfmann… he’s pretty fucked up. “He’s Jewish but wants to be a Nazi… hangs out with an Arian Brotherhood gang.” “What’s up Doc?” says Lt. Detective Christian Bjornsen, aka Bigfoot. Damn, the cops have gotten a whiff of something fishy with Michael Wolfmann, and they know Doc’s involved some how. Seems like Wolfmann is a builder and he’s trying to work some land use scheme… Oh, “the long sad history of land use in LA.” The path leads to a shitty little hole in the wall called Chick Planet… a “massage” parlor. They’ve got a “pussy eating special” going on today with free samples. Doc passes. But shortly after, he ends up on the beach, trying to piece together how he got knocked out… not an hallucination this time.

Director Paul Thomas Anderson is known for films that can be challenging but rewarding. If he was attempting to simulate the experience of a drug-induced fog, he succeeded. There is no shortage of amusing private-eye clichés, cute word plays, pop-culture references and fun cameo appearances. What’s lacking is a coherent story. It’s a struggle to follow events leading up to Chick Planet, but after that, the plot really comes unglued. Like a stoner trip, the film doesn’t move very fast. And like a stoner trip, it’s really hard to connect the dots… way… way… too many dots! “Heavy doper’s memory” is not just part of the film… it’s part of the film-watching experience. There are a lot of chuckles along the way… but… hey… “Beware the Golden Fang.”

popcorn rating

1 popped kernel

Stoner detective leaves no private-eye cliché unturned

Popcorn Profile

Rated: R (Language, Nudity, Violence, Sexual Content, Crime, Drugs)
Audience: Young Adults 
Gender Style: Bold 
Distribution: Mainstream Limited
Mood:  Neutral
Tempo: Slow moving  
Visual Style: Unvarnished Realism
Nutshell: Hippy detective
Language: Irreverent
Social Significance: Pure

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