Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the most highly gifted directors of his generation and an heir, in terms of his shaggy, free-ranging style and sensibility, to Robert Altman. His new movie, “Inherent Vice,” adapted from the Thomas Pynchon novel, is a kind of companion piece to Altman’s “The Long Goodbye,” and it’s the sort of failure that only a director of his talents could make – a movie about a stoner private eye (Joaquin Phoenix) in Los Angeles circa 1970 that seems to have been concocted in a stoned haze of its very own.
The Philip Marlowe-ish complications pile up along with the likes of Josh Brolin (very good as a bonkers, buzz-cut cop), Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Martin Short and, as a slinky noir vamp, relative newcomer Katherine Waterston (daughter of Sam). What the film misses, which “The Long Goodbye” mainlined, is the yearning and despair inside all these noirish shenanigans. Grade: B (Rated R for drug use throughout, sexual content, graphic nudity, language, and some violence.)