There Will Be Blood and The Master writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson is back this year with Inherent Vice, a film that (going by early word of mouth) is a bit out there, even by Anderson’s standards. For that reason, the movie’s previews – such as the new trailer for its screening at the Prince Charles Cinema in London (watch it above) – haven’t made much of an effort to unpack the picture’s confusing narrative (based on the equally labyrinth novel written by Thomas Pynchon).

Inherent Vice‘s marketing has instead highlighted the colorful world and characters of the film (set in early 1970s Los Angeles), while establishing little more than its basic setup: the pot-smoking P.I. Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) gets caught up in a case that involves his ex-girlfriend, Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston). What happens next, well… the early reviews say you might not be altogether certain, even after you’ve watched the movie.

Anderson’s Inherent Vice might seem to resemble the Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski (in trailer form, anyway), but according to those who’ve seen it, Vice is more of a genuine disaffected neo-noir detective story – albeit one with strong comedic elements nonetheless – compared to the Coens’ cult hit. Many have compared Anderson’s film to the Raymond Chandler novel-turned movie The Long Goodbye directed by Robert Altman (whose work is openly acknowledged to have influenced Anderson).

The thematic motif of “hips” (members of the dying ’60s counter-culture) versus “squares” (cops and officials who represent law and order) has very much been a part of the marketing for Inherent Vice, and looks to figure into the movie’s offbeat, even occasionally slapstick, proceedings just as much. That’s a reflection of the substance for Anderson’s latest film, which ought to make an interesting (in multiple meanings of the term) addition to his ongoing cinematic journey through American history.

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Rounding out the Inherent Vice cast are Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, and Owen Wilson, along with other recognizable character actors such as Jena Malone (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight), and Michael Kenneth Williams (Boardwalk Empire).

NEXT: Inherent Vice Early Reviews

Inherent Vice begins a limited theatrical release in the U.S. on December 12th, 2014; it expands nation-wide on January 9th, 2015.