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'Inherent Vice' misses the yearning and despair inside noirish shenanigans

'Vice' director Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the most gifted directors of his generation, but the film seems to have been concocted in a stoned haze of its very own.

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Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) and Hope Harlingen (Reese Witherspoon) chat in a scene from the movie 'Inherent Vice.'

Wilson Webb/Warner Bros.

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Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the most highly gifted directors of his generation and an heir, in terms of his shaggy, free-ranging style and sensibility, to Robert Altman. His new movie, “Inherent Vice,” adapted from the Thomas Pynchon novel, is a kind of companion piece to Altman’s “The Long Goodbye,” and it’s the sort of failure that only a director of his talents could make – a movie about a stoner private eye (Joaquin Phoenix) in Los Angeles circa 1970 that seems to have been concocted in a stoned haze of its very own.

The Philip Marlowe-ish complications pile up along with the likes of Josh Brolin (very good as a bonkers, buzz-cut cop), Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Martin Short and, as a slinky noir vamp, relative newcomer Katherine Waterston (daughter of Sam). What the film misses, which “The Long Goodbye” mainlined, is the yearning and despair inside all these noirish shenanigans. Grade: B (Rated R for drug use throughout, sexual content, graphic nudity, language, and some violence.)

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