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‘Inherent Vice’: The Reviews Are In On

Director Paul Thomas Anderson brings a new kind of reefer madness to theaters this weekend, thanks to his latest offering: 'Inherent Vice.'

Based on Thomas Pynchon’s novel of the same name, Anderson once again teams up with his “The Master” leading man Joaquin Phoenix for a film that several critics are describing as “stoner noir.” It’s not a surprising label, given that Phoenix’s character smokes and stumbles his way through problem after problem throughout the movie. And while many reviewers are taken with the unhinged “Inherent Vice,” others aren’t so enthralled with the dopey antics.

 
Here’s a slice of what people are saying about “Inherent Vice”:

The Story, Such As It Exists
“The loosely structured detective story centers on Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix), a drug-addled private eye who appears to run his business out of a doctor’s office. Doc may be in a purple haze much of the time, but he does have a fairly solid grasp on the truth. He’s kicking back in a weedy daze when the woman who got away, his ex-girlfriend Shasta Fay (Katherine Waterston) bursts back into his life, begging him to sort out a mess she’s involved in. It appears that her shady tycoon boyfriend (Eric Roberts) has been kidnapped and may be committed to a mental institution by his greedy wife.

“Doc is quickly drawn into her web, with an unlikely assist from an ambitious, hippie-hating cop (Josh Brolin) and a romantically-inclined deputy district attorney (Reese Witherspoon). Also in the mix are a pair of former junkies (Owen Wilson and Jena Malone) and Doc’s seedy but knowledgeable lawyer (Benicio Del Toro). Bad guys loom in the form of a dissolute dentist (Martin Short) and a ruthless businessman (Martin Donovan).” — Claudia Puig, USA Today

The Rise of the Phoenix
“Proving himself one of the greatest actors of his generation, Phoenix takes a radical departure from his work in ‘The Master’ and ‘Her’ to play Doc like a baked hybrid of Ace Ventura and Philip Marlowe. It’s a comedic tour-de-foce, pratfalls splattering with pathos and sleuthing slipping off the tongue like ‘Who’s on First?’ routines. Phoenix’s deer-in-headlight eyes are a trump card. Combined with mutton chops and a floppy beach bum hat, he’s like a living cartoon character, completely capable of pulling all the way back and evoking child-like fear.” — Matt Patches, IGN Movies

The Master’s New Clothes
“‘Inherent Vice’ is in some ways a godawful mess, indulgent in a way a less- respected director would never be able to get away with. And it’s two and a half hours long not because it needs to be, but because it can be. (Pynchon’s novel is relatively slender.) But there’s some zip to it, and Anderson appears to be reconnecting with the pleasure of directing a large ensemble of actors: Some of them come and go in the plot like casual visitors, kicking their shoes off for a moment and then disappearing for long stretches. ‘Inherent Vice’ is just that kind of movie: an open house for all sorts of weirdos and misfits and gloriously off-kilter savants, the sort of thing Anderson pulls off best.” — Stephanie Zacharek, The Village Voice

The Dope Show
“Doc’s dope smoking is significant to the movie’s mood and its narrative structure, and, as it happens, Phoenix does stoned exceedingly well. He manages to keep Doc in a constant blur, always slightly off balance and one beat behind, caught beautifully in the shake of his head, the confusion in his eyes. … Indeed, ‘Inherent Vice’ is Pynchon and Anderson at their funniest, loosest and most accessible. The cast seems to thoroughly enjoy being in on the joke. Maybe it’s all the weed.” — Betsy Sharkey, The LA Times

The Baker’s Dilemma
“I loved Pynchon’s novel, and I wanted to feel the same gonzo passion for Anderson’s take on it. But neither man seems interested in loving their audiences back. They traffic in mysteries yet seem annoyed at providing answers. I suppose you could argue that that’s the point of ‘Inherent Vice.’ Not all of life’s riddles are meant to be solved and they’re rarely handed to us gift-wrapped with a bow. Still, Anderson’s film, despite its groovy contact-high spirit, is like a table full of haphazardly strewn jigsaw-puzzle pieces that are never assembled, just rearranged in a different haphazard pile. ‘Inherent Vice’ is half-baked Raymond Chandler. With too much emphasis on the baked part.” — Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly

The Final Word
“It’s shaggy, eccentric, and sometimes hilarious, but it has a tender heart. It’s the sort of movie that can clearly echo one of the most moving scenes in ‘The Master,’ but frame it as a absurd, funny showdown involving tears and marijuana that’s still, somehow, poignant. It’s a stoner noir you’ll want to watch again as soon as the credits roll — though maybe with a break for some munchies first.” — Alison Willmore, BuzzFeed

“Inherent Vice” is in limited theaters now.

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