Inherent Vice is the first ever Thomas Pynchon novel to be adapted into a screenplay. The fact I have to say that is pertinent to the creation, outcome, and reaction to the movie. Thomas Pynchon is a modern literary giant. He is well respected, reclusive (as artist are portrayed), and has created a modern classic. Some call it The Modern Classic. Regardless, one of critics most loved filmmakers in Paul Thomas Anderson has taken on the great challenge of adapting one of critics most loved writers. He did so by writing the whole novel out as script and then cutting out what he felt was unnecessary.Inherent Vice, a movie based on the 2009 novel of the same title, is a drug-filled noir set in the 1970's. The main story follows "Doc" Sportello, played by Joaquin Phoenix, a private investigator and dirty hippie. The story is jumpstarted when Shasta Fay Hepworth, an ex lover of Doc's, comes into Doc's home with a hunch that the new hot shot real estate tycoon she's with, well his wife and her boyfriend are planning to send him to the loony bin. She thinks.
Doc begins his journey and immediately bumps into characters such as a Black Guerilla Family member, a woman who thinks her husband may not be dead, and a prostitute Jade. Like a noir film Doc has a particular distaste for the formal police, particularly Josh Brolin's character nicknamed "Bigfoot."
Detective Bjornsen is the antithesis of Phoenix's doping Doc and their unwillingness but need to work together to solve the case creates a lot of the tension and comedy in the film.
To try to summarize the rest of the plot would do a disservice to both the movie and Pynchon's style of writing. The movie is complex, surreal, and elaborate. All the characters relate and the solving of one mystery just leads to more questions. That is to say, it watches as a Pynchon novel would read. The cast is humongous and star studded, leaving me to look over several times to a friend throughout the film and remark "Oh my god I didn't know they were in this movie."
Critic review of the film has been inherently positive while audience left the theatre "confused." I too left confused and spent most of the remainder of the night trying to piece together the plot. I think the story would work better in it's original format, as a novel. That's not to say I didn't like the film. I really liked the film. The more I write about it the more I liked it. It's a flawless adaption of a Pynchon novel. Tonally the movie was perfect and, dare I say, groovily insane.