Following the Oscar nods and ”Is it really about Scientology?” innuendo that greeted his 2012 film The Master, writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson takes a left turn into ’70s noir — and a cloud of marijuana smoke — with his psychedelic crime romp Inherent Vice. Adapted from Thomas Pynchon’s gonzo 2009 novel, Vice stars Joaquin Phoenix as Larry ”Doc” Sportello, a shambling SoCal PI investigating the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend’s wealthy boyfriend. Along the way, he uncovers a pileup of conspiracies and faked deaths, heroin cartels and pimps. The cast includes Josh Brolin as a hippie-hating L.A. cop, Owen Wilson as a surf-band saxophonist, and Reese Witherspoon as a deputy DA and Doc’s part-time squeeze.
Anderson drew inspiration from a certain hard-boiled Raymond Chandler classic as well as the stoner stalwarts behind Up in Smoke. ”Paul said it has elements of The Long Goodbye and Cheech & Chong,” says Katherine Waterston, the newcomer (and daughter of Law & Order‘s Sam Waterston) who plays the femme fatale. ”It’s hard to explain tonally.” (Maybe The Bong Goodbye?) And in a film that swings between suspense and absurdity, prepare for a hit of magic realism. ”A piece of fruit plays a major role. It’s frozen. And it’s my friend,” teases Brolin. ”Even talking about it now is making me chuckle.”