IMDB Score – 7.4
Rotten Tomato Score – 69%
Academy Award Nominations for Best Costume Design and Dapated Screenplay
Directed By – Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring – Joaquin Phoenix, Katherine Waterston, Owen Wilson, Josh Brolin, Joanna Newsome, Martin Short, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, ERic Roberts, Maya Rudolph, Michael K. Williams, Hong Chau, Jena Malone, and Martin Dew
In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles detective Larry “Doc” Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.
It’s been just over two weeks since my last post. Apologies for that. My viewing habits happen to be changing week to week but good news is that I should have a few more posts coming up after I finish seeing the Oscar nominated films. I also may write up an actual post on the Oscar nominations but I’m debating it because I’ve honestly stopped caring about the show. Anyway, thanks for reading as always.
PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON HAS A NEW FILM OUT! YES!
Being my favorite living director right now, I have been excited for this film while also actively avoiding anything related to the film. I wanted to go into this thing fresh. Turns out, it doesn’t matter how many times I watched the trailer or how many articles I read, I would have left the theater confused either way. I honestly have no clue what the hell happened in this film. Now, normally this would be a negative. Normally, this would be an indication that the screenplay was weak, disjointed, or too complex. That isn’t the case for this film. I heard and understood every single line of dialogue in the film. I just don’t know what most of it means. Sure, the film is complex and offers about a thousand different characters with their own connections with the story. Some of these characters appear in the beginning and disappear for two hours only to be revealed at the end as a major plot device. Some of these characters only grace their presence once and after the scene changes they’re gone. I don’t have a problem with too many characters. Hell, Magnolia is one of my favorite films of all time and there are just as many characters in that as this. What makes this such a hard watch is simple, we experience the film like our main protagonist Doc Sportello experiences it, in a very foggy haze. It’s this haze that makes things murky and confusing. There is nothing wrong with that in my mind. PTA has crafted a film that even he doesn’t understand. Seriously, he said that in an interview with Marc Maron. While I haven’t read the source material, he states that a lot of the films dialogue and story arc is just how Thomas Pynchon wrote it in his book. Pynchon, who is one of the most unique writers of the last thirty years, had his book translated into film beautifully by PTA. The only problem with that is how it affected the audience which was a mixed bag.
I had two reactions during the two and a half hour run length of the film. The first half I was actively trying to keep up with the story and understand everything that was happening. I wasn’t enjoying the film that much. I was frustrated that I couldn’t get a grasp on the significance of each character or that Joanna Newsome, who acted as the narrator of the film as well as a friend to Doc, would keep chiming in with Pynchon jargon. Don’t get me wrong, Newsome was great in this, and I liked the narration. It just didn’t help with the frustration of trying to figure out what’s going on. Halfway through the movie I decided to give up and just let the amazing cinematography, acting, and 70’s vibes wash over me. I should have done that from the beginning because I enjoyed the film so much more.
Joaquin Phoenix plays our protagonist Doc, a weed smoking private eye who is tasked to put this puzzle of a story in the right pieces. I’m not even sure if he does by the end or if everything that he went through was even real. PTA did a fantastic job of making the film feel like you just smoked a huge doober. The cast is overbearing at times. Del Toro, Short, Witherspoon, Wilson, and Roberts aren’t in the film enough. This is all Phoenix, Brolin, and Waterston. Josh Brolin plays Bigfoot, a longtime acquaintance of Doc and also the person who wants to see Doc arrested. Waterston plays Doc’s ex ladyfriend whom has gone missing. We see her in flashbacks and sporadically through the film but she’s incredible whenever we do. The last scene we see her in is especially impressive as it’s a long, almost seven minute take with just her and Doc talking, and then some. The comedy comes mostly from Brolin, Phoenix, and a hilarious Martin Short. The cast kicked ass is what I’m saying.
Obviously I’m going to have to see this again. Even if I wasn’t confused I would see it again given that it’s a film by a living, and young, legend of cinema. There’s just something about PTA’s films where these whole other chambers reveal themselves and open up on repeat viewings. This review is a lot shorter than what I expected a PTA review would be but honestly, I can’t talk much about what I don’t understand. I’ll say this though, there is literally nothing like a Paul Thomas Anderson film. It’s a strange, hypnotic, hysterical, haze of a film that demands repeat viewings and crackpot fan theories. There are scenes in this film that are bizarre and puzzling mixed in with scenes that are just flat out outrageous and funny. It’s always a fun time in the cinema with PTA.
Plus, I don’t mean to spoil anything, but at one point Josh Brolin tells Doc that he smells like a patchouli fart. That’s hilarious. Damn hippies.