Film critic circles have already begun to name their best films of 2014, ranging from almost universally-beloved titles (Boyhood, Birdman) to this month’s late arriving biopics, such as Selma and Unbroken. And then you have Inherent Vice, a shaggy dog detective story that has the makings of an Oscar bait movie – acclaimed director, A-list cast members, historical setting – and yet, as the new trailer illustrates, doesn’t seem all that interested in being a movie that the Academy would like.
Inherent Vice, based on the novel by cult favorite author Thomas Pynchon, follows one Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix), a stoner and private investigator who gets caught up in an overly-complicated scheme – driven by a mysterious MacGuffin known as “The Golden Fang” – involving his ex, Shasta Fey Hepworth (Katherine Waterston). The film was written for the screen and directed by P.T. Anderson, who previously collaborated with Phoenix on the fever dream-esque 1950s cult drama, The Master.
The Master isn’t exactly a plot-driven film; it’s far more interested in creating a sense of time/place and examining the relationships between its strange yet beautiful (or, in some cases, just plain weird) characters. That also seems to be the case with Inherent Vice, as suggested by the narration in the latest trailer – detailing what things are like as we go from the free-loving 1960s to paranoid and disillusioned 1970s in Southern California (as seen through the eyes of Doc and the many other oddballs around him).
Inherent Vice has thus far been pretty well-received by critics, with regard to its performances, tone, and overall unique style. At the same time, though, it would appear safe to say this one won’t have the cross-over appeal of other awards season heavies, either from 2014 or years past (see last year’s The Wolf of Wall Street, for example). This film nonetheless seems like a must-see, for those cinephiles who can’t get enough of Anderson’s offbeat, yet personal and always memorable, film offerings.
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Inherent Vice opens in New York and Los Angeles on December 12th, 2014; there will be special advance screenings in other cities this Saturday (see the trailer for more), before the film goes into nation-wide release starting January 9th, 2015.