Lengthy Inherent Vice Is 'Offbeat'
Critics take on Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of novel
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 12, 2014 11:22 AM CST

(Newser) – How many stars can you pack in a movie? When it comes to Inherent Vice, based on a 2009 novel by Thomas Pynchon, a lot. Alongside Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Martin Short, and Josh Brolin, Joaquin Phoenix stars as a stoner helping out his ex-girlfriend in 1970s California. Here's what critics are saying:

  • Director Paul Thomas Anderson "gets so much contextually right here," writes Ella Taylor at NPR. But "that may be the problem. I love Anderson's ambition, but it is awfully hard to make a movie about a culture adrift that doesn't make its audience feel the same." She adds the film "runs a punishing 148 minutes, not enough of which are funny or sad enough to hold us."
  • Claudia Puig at USA Today finds Inherent Vice "well-acted, intermittently compelling, often incoherent but always offbeat." Phoenix is especially strong "as an ultra-convincing doper, sporting some impressive mutton chops," though the movie is "too long." Still, "think of it as a film that's meant to be experienced, more than fully understood."
  • The flick is packed with "hilarity, soulful reveries, stylistic ingenuity, and smashing performances that keep playing back in your head," writes Peter Travers at Rolling Stone. "It's the work of a major talent," yet "something's a little off." Perhaps it's Anderson's "excessive loyalty to Pynchon," Travers says. "It's Anderson's first constricted film, the one that never completely breaks free."
  • Betsy Sharkey at the Los Angeles Times disagrees. "Inherent Vice is Pynchon and Anderson at their funniest, loosest, and most accessible," she writes. "Anderson has done a remarkable job of replicating the crazy kaleidoscope of crime, dope, and raunch the novelist conjured." All the elements "create such a good buzz you can almost get a contact high from watching."