Paul Thomas Anderson’s Dead-On-Arrival adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s verbally dense L.A. detective yarn is a stoner CHINATOWN wannabee.* (It’s a Passion Project - SLAP! - It’s a Vanity Project - SLAP! - It's a Passion Project - SLAP! - It’s a Vanity Project.) Loaded with unlikely actors in unlikely roles, they’re less a cast than a bunch of personal favors called in for the occasion. Joaquin Phoenix, as the blissed out private investigator sorting out ex-lovers, a missing real estate tycoon & a sexually perverted drug organization, gives us his impression of Sean Penn in a Jeff Bridges role, but made up for the old PLANET OF THE APES. (See below) He’s not much worse, or more unhinged than everyone else in the starry cast . . . just less hygienic. If only a couple of jokes clicked, we might get an angle on the possibilities Anderson saw in the material. Instead, with a painstaking gaze, each overly controlled, artfully composed shot puts another nail in the coffin. The poster above got it half right: In Selected Theaters December 12; Nowhere January 9.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: *The plot (?) seems closer to THE LONG GOODBYE/’73 than to CHINATOWN/’74; and Robert Altman’s once derided film is a reimagined deconstructed wonder. OR: Maintain the CHINATOWN connection with Robert Towne’s near-miss TEQUILA SUNRISE/’88.