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Critics Debate Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Inherent Vice’

Critics Debate Paul Thomas Anderson's 'Inherent Vice'

Reviews of Paul Thomas Anderson’s wildly anticipated “Inherent Vice” are rolling in. This Thomas Pynchon adaptation starring Joaquin Phoenix as a drug-addled detective in 1970s Los Angeles has already earned plenty of high marks — but on the heels of Anderson’s serious “event” movies “The Master” and “There Will Be Blood,” is this stoner noir too slight an effort? And how will audiences (and the Academy for that matter) receive the film when it opens in theaters on December 12? (Anne Thompson takes a stab at answering those questions here,)

Here’s some of the early reactions to the film, which costars Benicio Del Toro, Reese Witherspoon and Owen Wilson. (Indiewire covers its weekend NYFF premiere here.)

Indiewire: “‘Inherent Vice’ never reaches comedically vibrant heights, but the movie has plenty of charm. While the setting returns Anderson to the “Boogie Nights” era,” it trades that movie’s pizzazz — not to mention its epic scope — for the probing qualities found in ‘The Master.’ While swapping ominous atmosphere for playful soul-searching, it retains the same predilection for raising questions rather than trying to answer them.”

Vanity Fair: “To me, ‘Inherent Vice’ is a little too zonked, meandering and overly long, an ultimately pointless story told by a stoned person. I realize that’s kind of the point, but it makes for eye-itching viewing, despite all of Anderson’s typically stunning camera work and nifty staging. Though it features fine performances from actors like Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, and, briefly, Martin Short, the film’s women get short shrift.”

Slant: “Anderson’s characters are broad comical caricatures that have grown from these fictions, not unlike the ones you could find in Ralph Bakshi cartoons. And much like Pynchon’s love of language and words animated his hazy sketch of Nixon-era California, Anderson enlivens his world by letting his actors play with the language, drawing out and abstracting their deliveries, and allowing them physical free reign.”

Glenn Kenny: “The movie walks a very particular high wire, soaking in a series of madcap-surreal hijinks in an ambling, agreeable fashion to such an extent that even viewers resistant to demanding “what’s the point” might think “what’s the point.” Which isn’t to say the humor isn’t delightful.”

Time: “A kind of ’70s bookend to the San Fernando Valley porn shenanigans of Boogie Nights, and apparently aiming for no higher goal than to fulfill Doc’s definition of groovy, Anderson’s IV lays down a shag carpet of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, with L.A. Dolce Vita best viewed through a marijuana smog.”

Variety: “Freely but faithfully adapted by Anderson from Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 detective novel — the first of the legendary author’s works to reach the screen — Anderson’s seventh feature film is a groovy, richly funny stoner romp that has less in common with “The Big Lebowski” than with the strain of fatalistic, ’70s-era California noirs (“Chinatown,” “The Long Goodbye,” “Night Moves”) in which the question of “whodunit?” inevitably leads to an existential vanishing point.”

The Guardian: “Underneath the crackpot humour, there’s something else at work; a deep-seated ache of nostalgia for a time when films were allowed to look, sound and move like this, that will surely come into sharper focus on a second viewing, when you aren’t so preoccupied with wolfing down the spaghetti tangle of the plot.”

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