Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Written by: Paul Thomas Anderson (screenplay), Thomas Pynchon (book)
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Katherine Waterston, Josh Brolin and Owen Wilson
Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, like the Thomas Pynchon book it’s based on, is a peace sign followed by a middle finger. Toward the end of the movie, private Investigator and relentlessly chill dude Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) flashes both of those to a mother and her children in a vacant parking lot as they carry away several kilos of cocaine from his vehicle to theirs. They’re members of the Golden Fang, which during the course of the long and winding narrative evolves from the name of a boat to the name of a drug syndicate to a warped, corporate state of mind.
Doc is placed on this perpetually confusing road by an ex-girlfriend, Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston), who tells him of a wife’s plot to throw a wealthy realtor into the loony bin and make off with all his money. From there the movie trapezes through an intricate and head-spinning web of other similarly bizarre set-ups — a brothel very poorly disguised as a massage parlor, a Hippy Last Supper with musicians and Nazis (and probably some who are both), a mental institution called “Straight Is Hip.”