The definitive Paul Thomas Anderson resource, Cigarettes and Red Vines, announced recently that PTA has begun to meet with actors to cast his upcoming film, Inherent Vice. This announcement comes on the heels of the news that Joaquin Phoenix has replaced Robert Downey Jr., who originally had been rumored to star as the film’s lead. [According to RDJ, PTA thought he was too old to play the film’s protagonist Doc Sportello, a 29-year-old stoner private eye.]
With Inherent Vice back in the news, it seems only right to remind the world that this movie will be awesome. Don’t believe me? Here are five reasons why.
1.) Thomas Pynchon
Thomas Pynchon is one of America’s best authors and a frequently mentioned candidate for the literature Nobel Prize. His literary output has earned him numerous accolades, one of which being the book of the year award for his 1973 book, Gravity’s Rainbow.
What’s equally badass about Pynchon, though, is the secrecy shrouding his private life. For the last forty years Pynchon consciously and successfully has removed himself from mainstream society. He’s successfully evaded reporters, dodged cameras, and pretty much evaporated into thin air. Very few pictures of Pynchon exist, and most of the ones that do are from his early college days.
In fact, Pynchon’s nature is so reclusive that for years his residence was unknown, which led some unconfirmed sources to suspect he was living in Mexico. Only recently has the media been able to state with confidence that Pynchon resides in New York City. By the way, he does absolutely NO press for any of his books, yet they continue to win awards and influence developing authors.
2.) Paul Thomas Anderson
There’s not much to say here other than to list PTA’s filmography: Sydney, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love, There Will be Blood, and The Master.
But, there’s more: PTA has gotten Pynchon’s approval to make the movie. Even better, PTA and Pynchon have spoken multiple times about the project. That’s right, the man who evades virtually any contact with the human race has gone out of his way to develop the project with PTA. Let’s keep in mind that this is the first Pynchon novel to be adapted for the screen.
This anecdote speaks volumes about the respect PTA has earned by other artists in the creative world not to mention the enormous level of trust Pynchon must have in PTA’s ability as a storyteller.
3.) Joaquin Phoenix
Reeling from the failure of his mockumentary, I’m Not There, many people had pronounced Phoenix’s acting career dead. Phoenix’s performance in The Master—guided by PTA’s direction—was a tour de force that revived his career.
In The Master, Phoenix breathed life into a walking Freudian Id who couldn’t help but give way to his most basic and animalistic desires. The performance was raw and unhinged, a true testament to his fearlessness to dive head first into what is required of the character.
To see PTA so quickly call his number again to lead Inherent Vice is a great sign. In fact, I’m already hoping that this is the birth of a new duo—a duo that can rival the recently bloomed Cianfrance-Gosling connection and, eventually, compete with the classic Scorsese-De Niro pairing.
4.) The Ensemble Cast
Most people know PTA for his 2007 masterpiece, There Will be Blood. TWBB, along with PTA’s prior film Punch Drunk Love (2002), are both character studies driven by flawed individuals who, when put under the microscope, have the sole responsibility of engaging the viewer.
However, PTA’s first two popular features—Boogie Nights (1997) and Magnolia (1999)—are built around ensembles. That’s why I was so pleased to find that Inherent Vice, while driven by Doc Sportello, largely gathers its steam from an ensemble cast.
In fact, prior to the release of TWBB I would have characterized “the ensemble cast” as one of PTA’s trademarks—a cinematic element that made PTA the director he is. But then TWBB came out, landed on numerous top 10 of the decade lists, and proved that he could switch gears with the flick of a switch.
PTA will not screw up a movie with an ensemble cast. I have no doubt he’ll return to his earlier style with ease and competence. If you don’t believe me, take a look at this character web from Magnolia. Yes, he really did tie ALL those characters together.
5.) Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll, and the 1960’s
Last but not least is the content of Inherent Vice. The book is, quite simply, cooler than the other side of the pillow: Southern California, the 1960’s, protests, government paranoia, drugs, hippies, surfing. And, these are merely characteristics of the book’s setting.
The book’s plot is even better: a big shot real estate developer named Micky Wolfman, a heroin cartel called the Golden Fang, a sexy ex-girlfriend named Shasta Fey, a group of neo-nazis, a crooked LA cop with the nickname of “Bigfoot,” an entire new Las Vegas dream city, an attorney named Sauncho, a loan-shark named Adrian, and a multi-million dollar yacht.
With that being said, I hope I’ve whet your appetite. In closing, let me say this. Inherent Vice almost reads as though it was MEANT to be adapted for the screen. As a film, it should be one of the more wild and funny noirs in a long time. I want to predict it will be a synthesis of LA Confidential and The Big Lebowski, but it’s too early to go quite that far…