‘Inherent Vice’ Review

photo for Inherent Vice Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice” is the first ever film adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon novel and thus should be a cause for celebration. Unfortunately for this reviewer — a big fan of both Pynchon and Anderson — the adaptation leaves something to be desired. A Pynchon novel needs to be nourished and taken in like a fine wine or a great dinner — savored, mulled over, delved into. Unlike a novel, a great film has to grab you by the eyeballs and — to use a term I haven’t used in many years –“suture” you to the screen. For some reason Anderson’s “Inherent Vice” pushes me away. The characters lack the depth they have in the novel — they’re just there, like avatars, reciting Pynchon’s words but not feeling them (surprisingly, Anderson is incredibly faithful to the novel in the film’s dialogue and story line). The movie rolls along in fits and starts, with a mise-en-scene that flattens out the scope of Pynchon’s novel. The scope of the novel is monumental — it’s the end of the 1960s (physically and spiritually), with the 1970s ushering in an era of corruption, conspiracies, violence, paranoia and fear. The book — and the film — opens when private eye Doc Sportello’s (Joaquin Phoenix) ex-old lady suddenly appears out of nowhere with a story about her current billionaire land developer boyfriend and a plot by his wife and her boyfriend to kidnap him and throw him in a loony bin. She “hires” Doc to investigate the plot, setting off a black comedy — part surf noir, part psychedelic romp, part Raymond Chandler mystery — involving surfers, hustlers, dopers, rockers, a murderous loan shark, the FBI, LAPD Detectives on the take, a tenor sax player working undercover for an unknown agency, and a mysterious entity known as The Golden Fang, which may be a Chinese mafia organization smuggling dope, the name of a tax dodge set up by some dentists, or a schooner that travels the seven seas. Maybe I’m too close to the novel — the craziness and absurdity of Pynchon’s world doesn’t seem to come through in the film for me — but I’m going to give it another chance. Stay tuned. Vitals: Director: Paul Thomas Anderson. Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Martin Short, Jena Malone, Joanna Newsom. 2014, CC, MPAA rating: R, 148 min., Crime-Drama-Comedy, Box office gross: $8.110 million, Warner. Extras: “Los Paranoias,” “Shasta Fay,” The Golden Fang,” “Everything In This Dream.” 3 stars

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