Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice made its world premiere at the New York Film Festival on Saturday. The movie, which stars Joaquin Phoenix (Her), Josh Brolin (Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), Reese Witherspoon (Wild), and Benicio Del Toro (Guardians of the Galaxy), had only recently debuted its first trailer online. That, coupled with the fact that Vice was noticeably absent from the bigger film festivals earlier in the year, made it a film shrouded in both mystery and anticipation leading up to its New York premiere.
With the premiere finally behind us and the initial reviews popping up online, some of that mystery can now be laid to rest. Early word out of New York is generally positive, although some mixed and negative reviews have raised eyebrows. The one thing that seems to be a consensus however, is the film’s unabashedly convoluted plot. Still, most seemed to acknowledge that the film’s zany stoner-mixed-with-a-hard-boiled approach make the labyrinthine storyline appropriate. In discussing the movie, Anderson himself mentioned his appreciation for Howard Hawks’ confusing 1946 classic The Big Sleep: “I saw The Big Sleep and it made me realize I couldn’t follow any of it, and it didn’t matter because I just wanted to see what was going to happen next anyway.”
Inherent Vice is an adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon novel, an author whose work many have considered impossible to adapt for the screen. The story about a 70s Los Angeles stoner detective investigating the disappearance of his old flame also drew comparisons to the Coens Brothers’ 1998 comedy The Big Lebowski.
For Anderson, Inherent Vice follows There Will Be Blood and The Master, two weighty, serious-minded films about American capitalism and religion, respectively. In many ways, Vice appears to be the director’s strange and trippy rebuttal to those previous two efforts.
Another notable consensus among critics is the praise of newcomer Katherine Waterson’s (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby) performance. Waterson plays Phoenix’s former girlfriend who winds up missing after initially asking for his help in a conspiracy plot. Also in the film are Owen Wilson (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Michael K. Williams (TV’s Boardwalk Empire), Martin Short (Father of the Bride), Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight), and Jena Malone (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1).
Inherent Vice will be released in theaters on December 12th.