Inherent Vice ★★★★½

Inherent Vice is a dense, keenly faithful adaptation to Thomas Pynchon‘s novel, at once sprawling, with its far-reaching, paranoia-drenched plotting, and intimate, with the majority of scenes featuring prolonged, drug-laced conversations that superbly wrangle every word from the source material.

Visually different than anything the director has done -- those expecting a Boogie Nights-esque, Scorsese-influenced dramedy will be taken by surprise -- as much of the dialogue scenes (at least in the first half) feature two shots with slow, calculated push-ins that eventually result in close-ups. The approach took me aback on first viewing, but on the second -- which should be a requirement, as everything wonderfully coheres into place -- I appreciated the character work to a much greater extent.

Joaquin Phoenix perfect as Doc, delivering the comedy (as expected), but also a lingering sadness that slowly unravels. The ensemble is top-notch, but Josh Brolin is particularly great as Doc's cop nemesis with whom he has a playful relationship with. Martin Short also stands out, briefly, as the most comical aspect of the film.

A layered stoner noir, Inherent Vice is PTA's most empathetic film and it just might be one of his best.

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