The big release this week is undoubtedly renowned filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson’s (Boogie Nights, Magnolia) latest – a hotly anticipated near three hour adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s 70s California-set sleuthing tale which stars Joaquin Phoenix as a perma-stoned personal detective rattling around the dregs of Los Angeles trying to solve a myriad of mysteries. Yet its wild ride stylings may not be for everyone.
PTA is known for his challenging and hugely ambitious work; Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood, he likes them long, and IV is another epic, but where his priors have worn their ambition and operatic tendencies on their sleeve, Vice is a far more careering, carefree and careless endeavour.
Full of red herrings, asides, misdirection and mischief, Inherent Vice the film shares a lot in common with its protagonist, a side-burned slacker masquerading as a PI, who is as concerned with finding the next toke as he is the bottom of the case, which is not all that clear in the first place anyway. Free-wheeling through a plot that includes a highly dubious – and rarely explained – Golden Fang collective, Martin Short’s hilarious coked out dentist, a square-jawed and equally right-angle-hairstyled cop in the shape of Josh Brolin, Benicio del Toro as a curiously unspecific Doc-aide, not to mention Owen Wilson’s commune-bound jazz musician, and it is a ride it is best to jump on board with rather than solve.
Moments of crass indulgence (the pussy menu at a local massage parlour comes to mind), slapstick and Cheech and Chong mindlessness sit side by side with a narrative that has all the focus of The Big Lebowski’s The Dude (the Coens’ cult classic is a clear relative). It’s a whoozy undertaking for sure, but you’ll ultimately find it hypnotising and mesmerizing, or soporific and slumbersome. Even PTA fans will be split down the middle.
If this sounds like your thing, you’ll laugh out loud as Doc puffs away on yet another, his bleary eyes struggling to focus, his mind long gone from the problem at hand. For you, Vice is going to be another classic in the making and addition to PTA’s excellent-already CV.
But what is it: a none-too-specific peek at the car crash that was the end of the hippy dream, a celebration of 70s LA’s lackadaisical approach to, well, everything? Both, but mostly just a riot to run with; however even those who have drunk in all of Anderson’s milkshake before may find themselves filing this as a lesser entry. It’s unlike anything else released this week, that is for sure.
A true trip, but one that might not be for everyone.
Also out this week…
Stephen Daldry directs this British-Brazilian tale of a group of boys from the slum who pick through rubbish to make a living, and unwittingly stumble on a story of crime and corruption. This year’s Slumdog, it’s a warming, life-affirming little belter.
Trash is out through Universal on Jan 31.
Son of a Gun
Ewan McGregor stars in this Aussie thriller about a n ex con trying to go straight, but with little luck.
Out Jan 31 through Koch Media.