Swirling at the center of this perplexing drama is a revelatory performance from Elisabeth Moss, who perfectly captures the brittle yet impenetrable nature of mental illness.
It’s not just that Paul Thomas Anderson’s movies tend to defy any one genre description; it’s that, often, it seems as if the writer-director is trying to play with many genres simultaneously. The only reason that Boogie Nights isn’t the best drama of the 1990s is that it spends a lot of time trying to be the best comedy of the 1990s instead. So Anderson’s newest, Inherent Vice, is a departure in that it mostly sticks to one style (sun-drenched film noir) and one tone (absurdist comedy). It’s also a fine film, which suffers only when measured against the insanely high standard that Anderson’s past work has set.
Even if you were not around during the 1970s, Inherent Vice comes across as a faded, nostalgic memory. Being a faithful adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s novel, the film recounts the dying days of the free love era, laced with the look, feel and paraphernalia of the subculture. Anderson’s comedic thriller peppers itself with restless, almost out of place laughter, while dedicating itself to the themes of the early Seventies. One is reminded of private-eye classics such as Roman Polanski’s Chinatown and Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye, with traces of Zucker-Abrahams comedies like Airplane! and The Naked Gun. For many, the homage to 1970s filmmaking will be a very real and thrilling look down memory lane. For others, it’ll be a history lesson like no other found in modern day filmmaking.
The slow build of season four continues this week, with Wright again a standout. Nucky’s excursion to Tampa is a clear step down from last week’s riveting scenes with Dr. Narcisse, that is until Patricia Arquette joins the fray as Sally, the smart and intriguing bartender who wins Nucky over on getting involved in Florida. Her few moments crackle with energy lacking from the rest of the Tampa storyline (and side note- she should always wear that particular shade of blue green. Props to the costume department!).