Doc Sportello (Joachim Phoenix) is surprised one day when his ex-girlfriend Shasta (Katherine Waterson) appears with a tale about her billionaire real-estate lover (Eric Roberts) and the sordid plans his wife has to abscond with his billions. It's the tail end of the psychedelic `60s and paranoia is rife. There are surfers, hustlers, dopers and rockers, a murderous loan shark, LAPD Detectives, a tenor sax player working undercover, and a mysterious entity known as the Golden Fang, which may only be a tax dodge set up by some dentists.
Review by Louise Keller:
There is nothing straightforward about anyone in Paul Thomas Anderson's bewitching mystery in which each character is a stepping-stone in a journey in which no-one is quite sure who or what they are chasing. Based on Thomas Pynchon's novel, the film is set at the end of the 60s, when life unravels under the influence of weed and the word love is 'way too overused'. We can almost smell the waft of pot as it permeates in almost every scene and we become enveloped in a world of corruption, murder, kidnapping and other illicit pursuits with a complex web of flawed characters. Don't expect a climactic finish; the beauty of the film is its immediacy and we are in the moment throughout, wondering what will happen next and what new revelation will be exposed.
Anderson gets our attention from the get-go: the conversation between Joaquin Phoenix's grungy PI Doc and his former flame Shasta (Katherine Waterston, impressive) that alerts us to a conspiracy involving her wealthy real-estate magnate lover Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts) and his go-getter wife Sloane (Serena Scott Thomas) is intriguing. The flame clearly still flickers for Shasta - by Doc. Enter a black militant, a spiritual advisor, bikies, an erotic housekeeper, a hippie dope fiend and a man with a swastika on his face.
All the while, narration by a husky female voice (of a secondary character) provides a running commentary, as if describing Doc's innermost thoughts. Riveting to watch, Phoenix is all at once heroic and vulnerable with his Wolverine sideburns, disheveled appearance, good intentions and inherent weakness for drugs of any sort. This is his film. There's a wonderful dynamic between Doc and Josh Brolin's LAPD renaissance detective; Brolin's square jaw features are accentuated by a flat-top hair cut and he keeps us guessing throughout. Reece Witherspoon plays Doc's current part time DA squeeze. We enter headlong into the dubious world of Chick Planet massage and Golden Fang Enterprises, with links to a drug cartel. Watch out for Martin Short as the outrageous, snorting Dr Blatnoyd and Owen Wilson as Coy, the missing musician turned informant, who pops up unexpectedly all over the place.
Those looking for a clear narrative arc may be frustrated, but if the thought of a jigsaw filled with characters on the edge excites you, this is the film for you. The lighting in the final scene is mesmerizing - look out for it.
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INHERENT VICE (MA15+)
CAST: Joaquin Phoenix, Jena Malone, Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Owen Wilson
PRODUCER: Paul Thomas Anderson, Daniel Lupi, JoAnne Sellar
DIRECTOR: Paul Thomas Anderson
SCRIPT: Paul Thomas Anderson (novel by Thomas Pynchon)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Elswit
EDITOR: Leslie Jones
MUSIC: Jonny Greenwood
PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Crank
RUNNING TIME: 148 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: 148 minutes