INHERENT VICE has already hit cinemas in select markets. This new PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON picture stars JOAQUIN PHOENIX as a stoner private eye in way over his head.
His ex-girlfriend shows up out of nowhere and tells him about a plot to kidnap her lover / billionaire land developer. Is she to be trusted? What’s this about the Golden Fang? Can Joaquin’s character see through the smoky haze long enough to… you know… think about that… Man?
The movie is adapted from THOMAS PYNCHON’s best-selling novel set during the end of the psychedelic 60s. It was a great read chocked full of great dialogue, with a creamy filling of dry & dark humour. The LA Times put it best (on the back cover of the book): “Raymond Chandler through a Jim Rockford looking glass, starring Cheech Marin.”
I love how the trailers for this neo-noir are narrated by a woman in a much more casual / conversational tone than the typical movie-trailer-voice-guy. You know what I’m talking about… “In a land… Only one man can…” Here, we get told about the character from the voice of someone who (seemingly) knows him. It’s almost like a campfire tale told amongst friends about some urban legend of a detective.
Joaquin teams up with PTA again, after their work together on the recent Award nominated film THE MASTER. That movie was definitely bold, and definitely strange. For me, I love how Anderson films his movies. He may embellish a bit too much style, but his pictures always feel like cinema. You can tell he appreciates the medium. He’s doing this for the sake of art, rather than commerce.
Phoenix on the other hand always does something outside of the box. I last saw him in the movie HER. And he was simply amazing in it. There is something to be said for subtlety. Not enough actors do this. They tend to oversell the emotion. For me, Phoenix seems to be the character. He reacts how the character would. If they are more reserved, so is he. If they blow up with anger (like THE MASTER) so does he. If he is lost, we feel lost. I love how this man operates. He is (most definitely) STILL HERE.
My favourite moments from these trailers for INHERENT VICE are when he struggles for words, or hesitates with his reactions. The character is totally aloof at times. With Joaquin portraying DOC SPORTELLO, it’s just such a joy to watch. He is a bumbling goof. What we have here is PTA doing some sort of intellectual slapstick (?)
Anderson is one of the top contemporary directors, in my opinion. My favourite film of his is probably MAGNOLIA, although BOOGIE NIGHTS is a close second. I just love how he handled these multiple character storylines. Maybe I will review MAGNOLIA later on. I have so many favourite moments from that movie. It’s like a long necklace full of pearls – one great scene after another.
It was with BOOGIE NIGHTS I realized he could balance multiple characters alongside tragedy and comedy. He made us laugh, but he also shook our souls – more so in MAGNOLIA. The films that followed shifted the focus to one main character, with periphery characters – PUNCH DRUNK LOVE, THERE WILL BE BLOOD, THE MASTER. Besides Phoenix, we also have REESE WITHERSPON and JOSH BROLIN, alongside great character actors BENICIO DEL TORO and MARTIN SHORT.
I feel like PTA needs a grand tapestry. He needs to balance various stories at once. He needs to examine several themes. In other words, Anderson is best when he splits his focus – which doesn’t seem to make sense from an outside perspective.
With INHERENT VICE he has a book to go off of – a book with a variety of eccentric characters, so I feel like we will have a return to old PTA, the master balancer. I look forward to this, his next strange concoction starring Joaquin Phoenix – mainly for the talent involved, but also because this piece of fiction is a part of one of my favourite sub-genres: film noir.
What do you think? Does Paul Thomas ANDERSON meander too much?
Do you enjoy just hanging out with his characters, rather than watching a complex story unfold?
Have you read the book? Do you look forward to Joaquin’s interpretation of the main character?