Paul Thomas Anderson has never been accused of thinking small. His latest film INHERENT VICE is an adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon novel that many (including myself) considered to be un-adaptable. The story itself is fairly straight forward, a pot smoking detective looks into a missing person. Set in 1970 Los Angeles, the hippie counter-culture is now the mainstream culture and the shadow of the Manson family looms fresh in peoples minds.
PTA has taken incredibly dense source material and squeezed as much of it as he can fit in this two and a half hour film. The movie is both meandering and fast paced. Characters are all given insane volumes of exposition to work through in every scene. When you are familiar with the book you can feel the pages flying by as you watch the film.
I'm not sure how this film will play for those who have not read the book but to me it feels like the only way you could possibly begin to appreciate this particular work. I'm sure that a film or any other work of art should require per-requisites but I feel that might be the case with INHERENT VICE. I loved the film but I'm not sure that it can fully stand on its own. Not on the first viewing at least. Much like the novel its adapted from you need to stop, take in everything that just happened in a particular scene and digest it for a few minutes. If you try to take it all in at once your body will reject it.
Paul Thomas Anderson films as a generalization need to be re-watched to be fully appreciated. Some people might be dismissive of his most recent effort because of the characters it follows but trust me this is not just a silly stoner comedy. If you dismissed Boogie Nights because it was set in the world of porn and starred Burt Reynolds you missed out on a modern classic. If you dismissed PUNCH DRUNK LOVE because it starred Adam Sandler you missed out on a deeply romantic film filled with performances that will stand the test of time. If PTA has taught us anything, its that his sums are always greater than his parts. He has a no pre-judgement pass for life in my book.
It was never the story that made INHERENT VICE such a difficult adaptation, it was always the way Pynchon writes. His work is opaque, you could turn one of his sentences into a mini-series. Anderson has filled every sentence in INHERENT VICEs script to the brim. You could not fit anything else in this film without adding another hour. With that being said its a hell of a ride. Josh Brolin and Martin Short absolutely nail their performances. I have a feeling Martin Short will be over looked at this years Academy Awards but it should be said that he is absolutely deserving.
This is not a film for everyone, as you can tell by the critical response. But, it was a film for me. A must own. INHERENT VICE is playing in theaters everywhere.