‘Inherent Vice’ movie review: Paul Thomas Anderson’s loaded look back at 1970s Los Angeles

January 9, 2015 7:03 AM

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That’s just one of a few running gags that keep afloat the cockamamie, kaleidoscopic, languidly compelling whodunit of “Inherent Vice.” The Doc in question isn’t a wascally wabbit, but Larry “Doc” Sportello, a private eye living in the seedy environs of Gordita Beach, Calif., in 1970. Like his animated counterpart, this Doc (played in a hirsute, thoughtfully spaced-out turn by Joaquin Phoenix) gets out of his share of scrapes in a tale whose characters, structure and tone — a balance between mournfulness and inspired mayhem — often feel as if they were crafted by Raymond Chandler while under contract at Looney Tunes.

Based on the 2009 novel by Thomas Pynchon — long considered unadaptable by even Hollywood’s most resourceful repurposing machinery — “Inherent Vice” roils and simmers with epochal shifts, spiritual cataclysms and eerily prescient observations of present-day realities, from long-brewing mistrust of t...

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