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There Will Be Blow

Inherent-vice-movie-review-joaquin-phoenix
Michael Muller/52nd New York Film Festival

MOVIE REVIEW
Inherent Vice (2014)

Let the conspiracy theorizing begin: Paul Thomas Anderson must not have gotten over “There Will Be Blood” losing the Oscar race to the much inferior “No Country for Old Men.” That would explain him going all Coen brothers on us with his latest, an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s “Inherent Vice.” Inherently a Coenesque film noir, it features an uncannily Coenesque universe of cartoonish oddballs and a distinctive vernacular.

Joaquin Phoenix is “Doc” Sportello, a drug-addled hippie private dick sniffing out the disappearances of his femme fatale old flame, Shasta (Katherine Waterston), and her sugar dad, billionaire real-estate magnate Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts) in 1960s Los Angeles. What Doc discovers is an underworld complete with a religious cult, a tax shelter and the Aryan Brotherhood. Far out, indeed. Talk about harshing your mellow.

Josh Brolin as the civil-rights-violating Los Angeles Police Department Lt. Detective “Bigfoot” Bjornsen — who deep throats frozen bananas as if he’s Linda Lovelace — just further fuels our conspiracy theory.

Mr. Anderson has such a field day with all the groovy slang that “Taking Woodstock” almost strikes as inauthentic by comparison. Most of his fans probably expect it to be his next “Boogie Nights,” and it’s certainly the biggest blast — and features the most sexual innuendos, if nothing else — he’s had since that 1997 breakout. But the film is decidedly Coenesque (i.e. not Altmanesque), even down to the clinical execution of a climactic showdown.

INHERENT VICE

Opens on Dec. 12 in New York and Los Angeles and on Jan. 30, 2015 in Britain

Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, based on the novel by Thomas Pynchon; director of photography, Robert Elswit; edited by Leslie Jones; music by Johnny Greenwood; production design by David Crank; costumes by Mark Bridges; produced by Mr. Anderson, Joanne Sellar and Daniel Lupi; released by Warner Bros. Pictures. Running time: 2 hours 28 minutes. This film is rated R by M.P.A.A. and 15 by B.B.F.C.

WITH: Joaquin Phoenix (Doc Sportello), Josh Brolin (Bigfoot Bjornsen), Owen Wilson (Coy Harlingen), Katherine Waterston (Shasta Fay Hepworth), Reese Witherspoon (Deputy District Attorney Penny Kimball), Benicio Del Toro (Sauncho Smilax, Esq.), Martin Short (Dr. Rudy Blatnoyd), Jena Malone (Hope Harlingen), Michael Kenneth Williams (Tariq Khalil), Martin Donovan (Crocker Fenway), Joanna Newsom (Sortilège), Eric Roberts (Michael Z. Wolfmann), Hong Chau (Jade), Maya Rudolph (Petunia Leeway), Sasha Pieterse (Japonica Fenway) and Jeannie Berlin (Aunt Reet).

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