One Toke over Sublime

By Foundas, Scott | Variety, October 7, 2014 | Go to article overview

One Toke over Sublime


Foundas, Scott, Variety


One Toke Over Sublime

The good-vibing '60s are slip-sliding away in Paul Thomas Anderson's "Inherent Vice," and along with them a certain idea of pre-Vietnam, pre-Manson California life - of boho beach towns and uncommodified counterculture soon to be washed away by a tsunami of gentrification, social conservatism and Reaganomics. Freely but faithfully adapted by Anderson from Thomas Pynchon's 2009 detective novel - the first of the legendary author's works to reach the screen - Anderson's seventh feature film is a groovy, richly funny stoner romp that has less in common with "The Big Lebowski" than with the strain of fatalistic, '70s-era California noirs ("Chinatown," "The Long Goodbye," "Night Moves") in which the question of "whodunit?" inevitably leads to an existential vanishing point. Not for all tastes (including the Academy's), this unapologetically weird, discursive and totally delightful whatsit will repel staid multiplex-goers faster than a beaded, barefoot hippie in a Beverly Hills boutique. But a devoted cult awaits the Warner Bros, release, which opens wide Jan. 9 following a Dec. 16 limited bow.

If "Inherent Vice" couldn't, on its surface, seem to have less in common with Anderson's previous pic, "The Master," it is, just beneath, another sympathetic portrait of wayward souls clambering for solid ground in war-tom America (albeit with the relative optimism of the '40s in that film replaced by a blanket of Nixo- nian paranoia).

The year is 1970 and the place Gordita Beach, a fragile ecosystem of surfers, psychics and sandal-clad shamuses in danger of disappearing from the map. Among the locals is Larry "Doc" Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix, sporting Groucho Marx eyebrows and Elvis sideburns), who runs his private-eye business out of a medical office and seems to spend considerably more time scoring grass than solving cases. But then, as Pynchon writes, American life is "something to be escaped from" - a line Anderson repeats verbatim in the film - which means good business for Pïs and drug dealers alike. In "Inherent Vice," everyone's hiding out from something.

That includes Shasta Ray Hepworth (leggy, lissome newcomer Katherine Waterston, daughter of Sam), an ex of Doc's for whom the flame still burns. She's the obligatory woman in trouble who sets "Vice's" psychedelic Raymond Chandler plot in motion, showing up unannounced on Doc's doorstep spouting claims of a conspiratorial plot involving her current lover, a deep-pocketed real-estate magnate named Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts), whose wife may be angling to commit him to a loony bin. And before Doc can so much as follow a lead, Mickey - and Shasta - promptly vanish into the ether. It's the start of a pretzel-shaped trail that snakes across the Southland from the rolling surf to the concrete "flatlands" east of the 405, and from low-rent petty criminals to the corridors of government power (i.e., bigger criminals), and where nothing is as it appears.

Pynchon and Anderson's world is a fluid, shape-shifting one in which every conversation is an exercise in doublespeak and people change identities as frequently as they change their clothes. A nefarious entity calling itself the Golden Fang may be a blacklisted movie star's personal sailing vessel, an Indo-Chinese drug cartel, or a syndicate of tax-dodging dentists fronted by a coke-snorting Dr. Feelgood (a delirious Martin Short), while the presumed-dead "surf sax" musician Coy Harlingen (Owen Wilson) may actually be an alive-and-well student agitator named Rick or a police informant known as Chucky. Elsewhere, there are more distressed damsels and femme fatales than you can shake a joint at, including Doc's on-again, off-again assistant DA. girlfriend, Penny (Reese Witherspoon); Coy's reformed-addict "widow," Hope (Jena Malone); and the unstable rich girl Japónica (Sasha Pieterse), whom Doc recovered in a long-ago teen runaway case. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

One Toke over Sublime
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.