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Inherent Vice 2014 ***

Like an episode of The Rockford Files directed by surrealist master Alexandro Joderowsky, PT Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s book makes a good fist of bringing a very tricky narrative to life. In a performance along the same tracks as Elliot Gould’s shambling Phillip Marlowe in The Long Goodbye, Joaquin Phoenix plays Larry Doc Sportello, a detective on the trails of the Golden Dragon crime ring in 1970’s California, running across oddballs including Reece Witherspoon as a socialite, Martin Short as a perverted dentist and Josh Brolin as a policeman who moonlight as an actor and goes spectacularly off the rails when Sportello dodges a series of lethal situations. As wonderfully all-over-the-place as its hero, Inherent Vice is arrestingly slow, atmospheric in counter-culture detail and will induce meltdowns for anyone looking for a good story, briskly told. A running joke in which Sportello’s notes are revealed as amusingly deficient quickly drops the hint that the fun is in the salty details, not what they add up to.

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