Avoiding Dark Unspeakable Hippy Horrors with Inherent Vice

Inherent Vice

After There Will Be Blood and The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson deserved to take a break, didn’t he?  He pulled off a similar lark after Boogie Nights and Magnolia when he directed “his version” of an Adam Sandler film with Punch -Drunk Love.  Much like the main character Doc Sportello has to dig deeper and deeper for the truth in this hippy noir, viewers have to dig deep to find any of screenwriter Anderson’s trademark themes in Inherent Vice.  Maybe there’s something about makeshift dysfunctional families here?  Having never read Thomas Pynchon’s source material, I can only assume all the darkly hilarious dope-fuelled and sometimes absurd banter is pealed straight from his novel (especially Joanna Newsom’s most pleasing to the ear voice-over work) as I felt and heard none of Anderson here.

This is a true adaptation handled with artistic care.  Where one does find the director Anderson is in the visuals, pacing and music. Longtime collaborator Robert Elswit evocatively photographs this Gordita Beach 1970 set rambling comic-mystery with gritty stock, soft blues and hints of sunset orange.  He does special wonders with the beautiful actresses in their groovy and revealing period garb and make-up (look at those pores!).  Anderson peppers in his always great taste in period music, while Jonny Greenwood provides a score unlike any he’s previously done, sweetly nostalgic and understated, perfectly accentuating the cool mood of the film.

In the lead role of Doc Sportello, Joaquin Phoenix gives the comedic performance of the year as the most howlingly expressive stoner detective ever to grace to the screen.  Yet the film is very much an ensemble piece, so much so it’s hard to pick out the highlights from the carnival of stars. Continue reading

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Boardwalk Empire: Acres of Diamonds

Boardwalk Empire Season 4 Promo1

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide

Boardwalk Empire – Acres of Diamonds

Season Four: Episode Three

Directed by: Allen Coulter

Written by: Terence Winter

The Spin:  Series creator Terence Winter takes the reign and finally puts up the first episode this season worth talking about.  Wisely he chooses to ignore the Midwest shenanigans of Muller the dope and Capone the cliché, and somehow even manages to make the otherwise dull-as-dishwater plotline involving Eli’s son at Temple worth watching.

But what was really interesting was the display of ladies tonight: a pawn, a lost soul, a hero, and a Sally saucy as all get out.

After getting into the heroin business with Rothstein, the increasingly crafty Narcisse (the incomparable Jeffrey Wright) uses a beautiful jazz chanteuse as bait to make it seem like he’s smoothing things over with Chalky (Michael K. Williams).  Little does Chalky know, Narcisse is about to turn his man Dunn against him.

Then we have our gal Gillian (the ever-fetching Gretchen Mol) gettin’ all domestic-like with the Office Space/Piggly Wiggly guy (Ron Livingston) only to have Jimmy’s murdered doppelgänger’s friend approach her at the soda shop leading her to shoot up just when things were starting to look rosy. Continue reading