Monday, December 8, 2014


By D.E.Levine

Based on the Thomas Pynchon book Gravity's Rainbow, Inherent Vice is a masterful work but I had to see it three timees before I finally got the gist of what was going on.

This is a funny film.  Whether or not Paul Thomas Anderson wanted to incorporate Pynchon's gags and his social indignation, he has managed to direct a slick, 1970s era mystery/comedy.

Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is a private investigator living in the Los Angeles area with an office in a medical clinic.  Sportello's ex-girlfriend Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston) pays him a visit because her married boyfriend's wife is planning, with her lover, to murder  (Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts), a real estate mogul.  When Doc goes to investigate he's knocked out at the Chick Planet massage parlor and when he wakes up next to a corpse that turns out to be one of Mickey's bodyguards,  both Shasta and Mickey have both disappeared.

There's another seemingly unrelated case where Doc is hired by Hope Harligen (Jena Malone) to locate her missing husband and presumed dead husband Coy (Owen Wilson).  Of course, it turns out the two cases are related and Doc is successful in solving both.

Told to beware of the Golden Fang, which is either a boat previously charted by anti-Communists subversives, a drug cartel headquartered in a building that looks like a golden fang, or the murder weapon in a homicide.

There are several subplots and everything that happens and every person that we meet seem to be clues in solving Doc's cases.

Set in an era of easy to get weed where everyone, including Doc seems to be perpetually stoned, how anything gets solved is a stretch.  Detective Christian Bjornsen (Josh Brolin), also known as Bigfoot, is assigned to the Wolfmann case and is brilliantly funny.  His demeanor and appearance are exactly the opposite of Doc's laid back hippie looks and actions.

Since this is the first film based on Pynchon ever produced, we have nothing to compare it with but we do know that it is fairly faithful to the book.  The film is confusing but it's fun.  I expect a few more viewings may be necessary for further clarification and understanding.