When I saw Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice at the New York Film Festival a couple of months ago, I stumbled out in an appropriate but not entirely enjoyable haze. I liked so much of what I just watched, but I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it as a whole—and this coming from someone who loves movies about unlicensed private detectives and had no real trouble with PTA’s more superficially mysterious The Master the first time around. I almost always see Anderson’s movies a second time theatrically, and then a third or fourth or fifth time on DVD, but while I wanted another hit of Vice for the sheer enjoyment of its celluloid cinematography, Joaquin Phoenix slapstick, and Anderson eccentricity, I also felt like I needed another go-round, just to try to wave through the fog it left in my brain (and I saw it stone-cold sober)—that the movie demanded another viewing.
It’s a demand I tend to resist, at least on principle.
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Opens December 12
“Then the blue shadows will fall all over town,” runs a line from “Any Day Now,” a pop lament for a lover who’s left for good, and played over the end credits for Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest sui generis, funny-sad feature. As Doc Sportello, P.I., in Inherent Vice Joaquin Phoenix makes his first, mutton-chopped appearance bathed in a dread blue, right when that certain someone (Katherine Waterston) turns up one night with a problem that sends him on a Thomas Pynchon whirligig-wander through connections and conspiracies and suspicions dimly perceived through pot smoke and California glare. While it’s all set on “Gordita Beach, 1970,” at the hyper-chronicled and -mythologized long goodbye to the 60’s and its cultural-political flameouts, the heart of Inherent Vice beats (or palpitates) with Doc’s concern for one Shasta Fay of the heavy lids and rueful pained expression.