Thomas Pynchon: Inherent Vice (4 stars)

Inherent Vice

Less than half the length of his last 1000-page tome and riffing on the relatively straightforward hardboiled crime genre as opposed to the exhausting literary mash-up of Against the Day, Thomas Pynchon’s seventh novel is the reclusive author’s most accessible to date. Essentially a detective tale set in southern California at the butt end of the 60s, it features a hippie PI named Doc Sportello who emerges from a marijuana high to investigate the disappearance of a millionaire property magnate.

The similarities to the Coen brothers’ stoner noir The Big Lebowski are inescapable, but we’re nevertheless firmly in Pynchon territory. A number of characters from the northern California-set Vineland pop up here and there, but what makes this hilarious wise-ass yarn so Pynchon-esque is the preoccupation with counter-pop-culture, corporate imperialism and conspiracy theories. And it’s so effortlessly evocative of its psychedelic milieu, it puts paid to the notion that if one remembers the 60s one wasn’t there. Pynchon clearly was.

(Jonathan Cape)

Inherent Vice

  • 4 stars
  • 2014
  • US
  • 2h 28min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio del Toro
  • UK release: 30 January 2015

It's 1970, and mutton-chopped, perma-stoned private detective Doc Sportello (Phoenix) reluctantly teams up with his po-faced LAPD nemesis Bigfoot (Brolin) on the case of a disappeared property developer. Lunatic, sun-scorched noir based on a Thomas Pynchon novel, with a joy of a script and impeccable comic timing from…

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