Filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson's well-established career can be described as somewhat of a Jekyl & Hyde scenario. On one hand, Anderson has been the creative catalyst and visionary for highly regarded Oscar contenders of the past like There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights and Magnolia, each of which represent a truly impeccable level of filmmaking and storytelling. On the other hand, three of the director's last four features haven't quite lived up to the superior quality of his more prominent work. Yet, while the auteur's latest attempt, Inherent Vice, is a big step down from Anderson's trio of brilliant titles, the quirky crime comedy is a tolerable watch that gives a refreshing new vantage point for Anderson's abilities.
Joaquin Phoenix stars as Doc Sportello, a clumsy, drug-loving (especially reefer) private investigator in 1970s Los Angeles who's given a tip by his former ex-girlfriend about a wealthy real estate mogul's impending disappearance. And shortly after both his ex-girlfriend and the wealthy man go missing, Doc uses his unorthodox methods to crack the case. Ultimately, its Joaquin Phoenix's wonderfully peculiar performance and plenty of adequately-timed situational humor that helps ease the audience through an otherwise unfathomable two and a half hour affair.
Inherent Vice is without a doubt a second straight muddled feature from Paul Thomas Anderson (including 2012's The Master) that's weak on mystery and substance. However, rich in style and easily-earned laughs, you're better off just welcoming the off-kilter and mindless entertainment than bogging yourself down with its lack of intrigue. Much like the drug-users of its time would say, "just enjoy the ride, man", no matter how nonsensical and pointless it may seem.