Inherent Vice (film)

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Inherent Vice
Inherent Vice film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Produced by JoAnne Sellar
Daniel Lupi
Paul Thomas Anderson
Screenplay by Paul Thomas Anderson
Based on Inherent Vice
by Thomas Pynchon
Starring Joaquin Phoenix
Josh Brolin
Owen Wilson
Katherine Waterston
Reese Witherspoon
Benicio del Toro
Jena Malone
Maya Rudolph
Martin Short
Music by Jonny Greenwood
Cinematography Robert Elswit
Edited by Leslie Jones
IAC Films
Ghoulardi Film Company
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • October 4, 2014 (2014-10-04) (NYFF)
  • December 12, 2014 (2014-12-12) (United States)
Running time
149 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $20 million[2]
Box office $14.7 million[3]

Inherent Vice is a 2014 American neo-noir comedy-drama crime film and the seventh feature film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, adapted from the novel of the same name by Thomas Pynchon. The cast includes Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Eric Roberts, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio del Toro, Jena Malone, Joanna Newsom, Jeannie Berlin, Maya Rudolph, Michael K. Williams and Martin Short. The film follows Larry "Doc" Sportello, a stoner hippie and private investigator in 1970, who is embroiled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld while investigating three cases interrelated by the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend and her wealthy boyfriend.

Anderson's adaptation of Inherent Vice had been in development since 2010; it is the first Pynchon novel to be adapted for the screen. It is Anderson's second collaboration with Phoenix, following The Master, and involves a number of his other recurring collaborators, including producers Daniel Lupi and JoAnne Sellar, cinematographer Robert Elswit, editor Leslie Jones, and composer Jonny Greenwood.

Inherent Vice premiered at the New York Film Festival on October 4, 2014, and began a limited theatrical release in the United States on December 12, 2014. Critical reception was divided; while some argued the film had a convoluted plot and lacked coherence, others praised the cast, particularly Brolin, Phoenix and Waterston. The film was nominated for a number of awards, including two Academy Awards nominations and a Best Actor Golden Globe Award for Phoenix, the National Board of Review named it one of the ten best films of the year. Some critics have said that Inherent Vice has the makings of a cult film;[4] in 2016, it was voted the 75th best film since 2000 in an international critics' poll.[5]


In 1970, Shasta Fay Hepworth visits the beach house of her ex-boyfriend, Larry "Doc" Sportello, a private investigator and hippie in Gordita Beach, Los Angeles County. Shasta tells him about her new lover, Michael Z. "Mickey" Wolfmann, a wealthy real estate developer. She asks Doc to help prevent Mickey's wife and her lover from having Mickey abducted and committed to an insane asylum.

Doc meets with Tariq Khalil, a member of the Black Guerrilla Family. Khalil hires Doc to find Glen Charlock, a member of the Aryan Brotherhood he met in jail, who now owes him money and is one of Wolfmann's bodyguards.

Doc visits Mickey's Channel View Estates project and enters the only business in the developing strip mall, a massage parlor, where he meets an employee, Jade. Doc searches the premises for Charlock, but he is hit with a baseball bat and collapses, he awakens outside, lying next to Charlock's dead body and surrounded by policemen. Doc is interrogated by Det. Christian F. "Bigfoot" Bjornsen of the LAPD, and learns that Wolfmann has disappeared. He is helped by his attorney, Sauncho Smilax, who arranges for his release by the LAPD.

Doc is hired by former heroin addict Hope Harlingen, who is looking for her missing husband, Coy, she was told that Coy was dead, but she believes he is alive because due to a large deposit to her bank account. Coy seeks out Doc and says he is hiding at a house in Topanga Canyon; in a second meeting, he reveals he is a police informant and fears for his life, only wanting to return to his wife and daughter.

Jade leaves a message for Doc, apologizing for setting him up with the police and telling him to "beware of the Golden Fang", he meets her in an alley, where she explains that the Golden Fang is an international drug smuggling operation. Doc talks to Sauncho, who gives him information about a suspicious boat called the "Golden Fang" and tells him that, the last time the ship sailed, it was with Shasta on board. Thanks to a postcard from her, Doc finds a large building shaped like a golden fang and meets dentist Dr. Rudy Blatnoyd.

Bigfoot calls Doc and tells him that Blatnoyd has just been found dead with fang bites in his neck. Bigfoot decides to help Doc about Coy and tells him to search for Puck Beaverton in Chryskylodon, an asylum run by a cult connected to the Golden Fang. There, Doc finds Mickey, who is being watched by the FBI. Mickey tells Doc he felt guilty for the negativity his real-estate business has caused and wants to give away his money, he appears to be a happy member of the cult.

When Doc returns home to his beach house, he is greeted by Shasta, who has returned and is indifferent to the trouble her disappearance has caused, she confesses to being on a "three-hour tour" and that she was brought along as inherent vice. She and Doc have sex.

Penny, an assistant district attorney with whom Doc was having a fling, provides him with confidential files from which he learns that the loan shark Adrian Prussia is paid by the police department to kill people for them and that one of his victims was Bigfoot's former partner. Prussia is tied to the Golden Fang and Doc learns that Glen Charlock was involved with a deal, which is how he ended up dead. Doc visits Adrian, noticing his obsession with baseball bats, but is abducted and drugged by his partner Puck, he manages to escape, killing both Puck and Adrian. Bigfoot appears and rescues him but after being driven home by Bigfoot, Doc learns that he has been set up: Bigfoot has planted heroin in his car. Doc arranges for the drugs to be returned to the Golden Fang in exchange for Coy's freedom. Doc and Shasta ride in a car going to an unknown destination.




It was first reported in December 2010 that Anderson wanted to adapt Inherent Vice; at the time, he had been writing a treatment and started on a script after The Master had been shelved indefinitely months prior.[6] Anderson originally adapted the entire 384-page novel sentence by sentence which made it easier for him to cut down the script than the novel.[7] By February 2011, Anderson had written a first draft and was more than halfway done with a second draft,[8] the first draft was written without a narrator but the character of Sortilège was later turned into the voice of the narrator.[7] In September 2012, Anderson stated that he was still writing the script but was hoping he could get Inherent Vice into production and have a few years of being more productive.[9][10]

This is the first film adaptation from a Thomas Pynchon novel[11][12] with Anderson describing it "like a Cheech & Chong movie".[10] Years prior, Anderson considered adapting Pynchon's 1990 novel Vineland but could not figure out how but when Inherent Vice came out he was drawn to it and wrote the film concurrently with The Master.[7] Anderson significantly changed the ending from the novel[7] and described the novel as "deeply written and beautifully profound stuff mixed in with just the best fart jokes and poop jokes that you can imagine."[13] Anderson drew inspiration from Kiss Me Deadly, The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye, and Cheech & Chong's Up in Smoke.[7][13][14] Anderson has said he tried to cram as many jokes onto the screen as Pynchon squeezed onto the page and that the visual gags and gimmicks were inspired by Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker-style slapstick spoofs like Police Squad!, Top Secret!, and Airplane!.[7] Anderson also used the underground comic strip Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers as what he has described as an invaluable "research bible" for the writing process.[12]


Robert Downey, Jr. was reportedly interested in the role of Larry "Doc" Sportello and was making plans to start shooting in the fall of 2011 since he had dropped out of Oz the Great and Powerful.[8][15] Downey, Jr. stated in December 2011 that the planned collaboration was "probably true".[16] In January 2013, it was reported that Joaquin Phoenix was in talks for the lead and that Downey, Jr. had ultimately passed on the role.[17] Downey, Jr. later said that Anderson wanted to make the film with Phoenix because he was too old.[18]

In May 2013, it was reported that Benicio del Toro,[19] Owen Wilson,[20] Reese Witherspoon,[21] Martin Short,[22] and Jena Malone[22] were in talks to join the film. In May 2013, it was reported that Josh Brolin[23] joined the cast and that Katherine Waterston joined as the lead female role;[24] in June 2013, it was reported that Peter McRobbie[25] and Sasha Pieterse[26] joined the cast. In July 2013, it was reported that Timothy Simons joined the cast;[27] in October 2013, it was reported that Michael K. Williams joined the cast.[28]

In September 2014, it was reported that Pynchon may have a cameo in the film, which Anderson would not confirm, citing Pynchon's choice to stay out of the public spotlight.[7] Brolin went as far as to confirm the cameo and claimed that Pynchon was on set but that nobody knew it was him as he stayed in the corner.[7]


Principal photography began in May 2013, and it was reported that shooting was to take place until August 2, 2013.[29] Shooting permits in California covered a San Fernando Valley warehouse, a storefront on Slauson Boulevard, driving shots in the Canoga Park area, driving shots in canyon roads above Malibu and a warehouse in Chinatown.[29] In June 2014, filming also took place in Pasadena, and aboard the tall ship American Pride located in Long Beach.[30]

The set has been described as organized chaos but the cast felt protected when they took big risks.[13] Short stated that "If you're working with a great director, you feel very, very, very safe because you know that all the decisions will be made months later in the editing room."[13] Malone stated that "it was a very structured process" and that the "chaos can only come from a grounded, logical base because you have to know where you're going to be spinning from, the logic becomes the chaos and the chaos becomes the logic."[13]

According to Waterston, Anderson did not have a clear goal while on set but it did not feel chaotic.[31] Brolin said "It was crazy, chaotic but really, really gratifying."[32] Brolin also stated that there was "a really strange lack of pretense" but that Anderson would work with the actors when they felt something was not working.[31] Pieterse stated that Anderson allowed "freedom and flexibility to really dive into your character and shape the scene".[33] Wilson said "Sometimes I wouldn't necessarily know what I was doing. We were encouraged to kind of do anything."[13]


On February 6, 2014, The Film Music Reporter confirmed that Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood would compose the music for the film.[34] His score was recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London,[34] this is the third time Greenwood has scored an Anderson film, the first two being There Will Be Blood and The Master.[35] An unreleased Radiohead song called "Spooks" appears on the soundtrack, which was performed by Greenwoood and two members of Supergrass.[35] Recordings from the late 1960s and early 1970s by Neil Young, Can, and The Marketts also appear, among others. The film soundtrack was released by Nonesuch Records on December 16.[36]

The film features a cameo by Orange County-based music group The Growlers.


Inherent Vice premiered as the centerpiece at the New York Film Festival on October 4, 2014.[37] The film received a limited release on December 12, 2014,[38] before being released in 645 theaters on January 9, 2015.[39]

This film earned $8 million domestically and $6.6 million internationally, despite the positive reviews bringing its final gross to $14.6 million - around six million short of earning its budget back.[3]


Inherent Vice was met with general acclaim. Critics praised the film for its performances, particularly those of Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin and Katherine Waterston, while some were frustrated by its complicated plot. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a rating of 73%, based on 230 reviews, with an average rating of 7.1/10. The site's consensus reads, "Inherent Vice may prove frustrating for viewers who demand absolute coherence, but it does justice to its acclaimed source material – and should satisfy fans of director P.T. Anderson."[40] At Metacritic, the film has a score of 81 out of 100, based on 43 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[41]

Film Journal International's Ethan Alter commented that the film is "confounding, challenging and consistently unique."[42] IGN reviewer Matt Patches gave the film an 8.9 out of 10 score, saying "There's nothing certain – a surprisingly rewarding sensation that demands repeat viewings. There's so much, too much, to soak up, and all the laughter Anderson piles on top of the thematics means there's plenty to miss. Inherent Vice is a high grain strain: Provocative, hilarious, and its own breed of weird."[43] Collider's Adam Chitwood named it one of the top ten films of 2014.[44]

The film was ranked 75th in a survey of 177 critics conducted by the BBC in 2016 to determine the 100 best films of the 21st century.[5]

Top ten lists[edit]

Inherent Vice was listed on many film critics' top ten lists of 2014 movies.[45]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result Ref
87th Academy Awards February 22, 2015 Best Adapted Screenplay Paul Thomas Anderson Nominated [47]
Best Costume Design Mark Bridges Nominated
ACE Eddie Awards January 30, 2015 Best Edited Feature Film – Comedy or Musical Leslie Jones Nominated [48]
Art Directors Guild Awards January 31, 2015 Excellence in Production Design for a Period Film David Crank Nominated [49]
Boston Online Film Critics Association December 6, 2014 The Ten Best Films of the Year Won [50]
Boston Society of Film Critics December 7, 2014 Best Use of Music in a Film Jonny Greenwood Won [51]
Central Ohio Film Critics Association January 8, 2015 Best Supporting Actor Josh Brolin Runner-up (tie) [52][53]
Best Adapted Screenplay Paul Thomas Anderson Nominated
Costume Designers Guild February 17, 2015 Excellence in Period Film Mark Bridges Nominated [54]
Critics' Choice Movie Award January 15, 2015 Best Supporting Actor Josh Brolin Nominated [55]
Best Adapted Screenplay Paul Thomas Anderson Nominated
Best Art Direction David Crank
Amy Wells
Best Costume Design Mark Bridges Nominated
Denver Film Critics Society January 12, 2015 Best Picture Inherent Vice Nominated [56][57]
Best Director Paul Thomas Anderson Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Josh Brolin Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Katherine Waterston Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Paul Thomas Anderson Won
Best Score Jonny Greenwood Nominated
Film Independent Spirit Awards February 21, 2015 Robert Altman Award Won [58]
Georgia Film Critics Association January 9, 2015 Best Adapted Screenplay Paul Thomas Anderson Nominated [59][60]
Best Cinematography Robert Elswit Nominated
Best Production Design David Crank Nominated
Golden Globe Awards January 11, 2015 Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Joaquin Phoenix Nominated [61]
Houston Film Critics Society Awards January 12, 2015 Best Picture Inherent Vice Nominated [62][63]
Best Director Paul Thomas Anderson Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Josh Brolin Nominated
Best Cinematography Robert Elswit Nominated
Best Poster Inherent Vice Nominated
International Film Music Critics Association Awards February 19, 2015 Best Original Score for an Action/Adventure/Thriller Film Jonny Greenwood Nominated [64]
London Film Critics' Circle January 18, 2015 Technical Achievement Award Mark Bridges (costumes) Nominated [65]
Los Angeles Film Critics Association December 7, 2014 Best Music Score (tied with Mica Levi for Under the Skin) Jonny Greenwood Won [66]
National Board of Review January 6, 2015 Top 10 Films Won [67]
Best Adapted Screenplay Paul Thomas Anderson Won
San Francisco Film Critics Circle December 14, 2014 Best Adapted Screenplay Paul Thomas Anderson Won [68][69]
Best Production Design David Crank Nominated
Best Editing Leslie Jones Nominated
Satellite Award February 15, 2015 Best Supporting Actress Katherine Waterston Nominated [70]
Best Adapted Screenplay Paul Thomas Anderson Nominated
Best Cinematography Robert Elswit Nominated
Saturn Award June 25, 2015 Best Action or Adventure Film Inherent Vice Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Josh Brolin Nominated
USC Scripter Award January 31, 2015 Best Adapted Screenplay Paul Thomas Anderson Nominated [71]


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External links[edit]