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When you think of Paul Thomas Anderson and the compact but rich filmography he possesses, words like "intense," "poetic," and even "tragic" all seem to do the trick. Yet there's one word that has never even come close to describing a piece of his own work, a word that's usually reserved for much lighter fare than Anderson's usual examinations into the human condition: "bonkers." That's just the word some advanced viewers have used to describe his latest film, an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice, proving that there truly is a first time for everything.
InContention captured two extremely early reviews from a recent screening. Apparently, Inherent Vice is in good enough shape for Paul Thomas Anderson to be showing it around, and that's exactly what he's been doing since this past spring. What does the feedback say about the Joaquin Phoenix starring vehicle? Let's just put it this way: if you ever wanted to see Anderson take on both The Zucker Bros and The Coen Bros style of filmmaking, then you're going to have a very fun treat in store for you this December.
Surprisingly, the stand out cast member of Inherent Vice's ensemble isn't Joaquin Phoenix, but none other than talented comedian Martin Short, who's being touted as a "batshit insane" dentist with a drug habit. Martin Short, Ed Grimley himself, somehow out beat Joaquin "I'm Quitting My Career To Become A Rapper" Phoenix in a batshit insane contest? Keep in mind, this is the man that exploded across the screen in The Master as the anger prone, sand woman humping Freddie Quell. Back to the film itself, The Big Lebowski and The Long Goodbye are naturally both being mentioned as spiritual kin to Inherent Vice and all of its comic weirdness. But is the comparison to The Coen Bros and even Robert Altman really thatfar out?
When you look at Paul Thomas Anderson's films, he really does seem to inhabit this middle ground between the Coen's commentary on the absurdity of life and Altman's character focused, slow burn dramas. Through this lens, Inherent Vice doesn't seem all that far off for the man who brought us There Will Be Blood. Still, audiences at next month's New York Film Festival are going to find themselves in an interesting situation that will make them, as one reviewer put it, " laugh out loud several times, but not in the ways you might expect."
Inherent Vice alters minds in a probably limited release on December 12th, which may or may not lead to an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. Considering the Academy's bias against Comedy, the presence of one of their favorite directors and a killer ensemble doesn't seem like enough of a lock for a nomination.