Paul Thomas Anderson is not my kind of wunderkind. I have tried with his “Boogie Nights” 1997,and with his”Magnolia” 1999, and with his “There Will Be Blood” 2007. The “soul of America searching” does not lead me to sociopaths and psychopaths. Anderson’s “The Master” 2012 would be my favorite PTA work, but Scientology and Elmer Gantry antics lead to easy satirization,so credit is easy in coming. His “Inherent Vice” based on Thomas Pynchon’s novel left me antsy to leave the packed audience of thirty and forty -year -olds to their snickering. I can’t remember when I was more bored–maybe watching my ninty-year -old mother go through her envelope of grocery coupons.
The setting is my decade, and Pynchon’s. Torrance California ( of “Unbroken” fame) and its L.A.environs provide the background. A narrator is used to tell a hazy and hollow tale of a private investigator/counsellor type named Larry “Doc” Sportello. (Joaquin Phoenix) Phoenix,who I loved in “Her”, relies on his farcical chia- pet mutton chops and stoner stare in too many close-ups. I think his nomination for best actor is a reaction to his losing for “Her” last year.The hippie culture details were evocative: the Ouija boards,astrological mutterings,the turquoise phones with rotary dials and curly cords,the weed and harder drugs,the police animosity,the easy sex and patachouli clouds, not the farts. The theme does not come easily,maybe change in love and in loyalty. The key is the viewer does not care. The movie was too long,too nihilistic,and too “unartful”.
Josh Brolin played his type,a big-footed unsavory policeman. His chocolate-covered banana close-ups overdone. A heavier Benito del Toro was excellent in his cameo role,but not worthy of the ticket price and time wasted.The “boulevards of regret” were all mine. I liked the irreverent pizza last supper with matching tablecloth,and wish other religions would be as tolerant of needling sacred images. I worry about PTA,whose friends PSH (Phillip Seymour Hoffman)and DFW (David Foster Wallace) both offed themselves. Maybe,having a comedic partner like Maya Rudolph will keep him from black-humor burnout. Only those who get Pynchon,or enjoy the vulgar, or the silly picking of noses and toes,or like to hear pants growing should bother with this one.