Okay..I’m going to guess some people will be a bit surprised to say the least by this review as I don’t think it possible that there was anyone who was more looking forward to this film than I. Starting with the fact that it’s a Paul Thomas Anderson written & directed by film and I’m a big fan of almost all his previous pics. Then there is the cast..Joaquin, Benicio, Josh, Reese, Eric..even Owen. And then there is the trailer and when it got released I was almost drooling to see this film. And then I got invited to a screening..even MORE excited. And then the day came and I got to go see it!!! And that’s when the letdown began.
Joaquin Phoenix is “Doc” Sportello, a drug-addled hippie private eye or ‘private dick’ as they call it in 1970, who is sniffing out the disappearances of his old flame, “Shasta Fay Hepworth” (Katherine Waterston), and her sugar daddy, billionaire real-estate magnate “Mickey Wolfmann” (Eric Roberts) in 1970’s Los Angeles. What Doc discovers is an underworld complete with a religious cult, a tax shelter and the Aryan Brotherhood. Far out, yes..indeed it is.
Josh Brolin is the civil-rights-violating Los Angeles Police Department Lt. Detective “Bigfoot” Bjornsen ~ who deep throats frozen bananas as if he’s Linda Lovelace. Along with Maya Rudolph “Petunia Leeway“, “Sauncho Smilax, Esq.” aka Benicio Del Toro, Owen Wilson as “Coy Harlington”, Reese Witherspoon as Doc’s Deputy D.A. girlfriend, “Penny Kimball”, Elaine Tan, with an extremely awful nails~on~chalkboard squeaky voiced character named “Xandra”, and Martin Short as probably the only somewhat redeemingly, only teensy bit funny character,“Dr. Rudy Blatnoid D.D.S.”
The whole film is annoyingly narrated by the nasally voiced “Sortilege” (Joanna Newsom) who speaks in a lingo that I don’t think ever really existed thus making it even MORE ANNOYING..and yeah..sorry..just plain silly bordering on stupid.
I couldn’t help thinking the whole time I was watching that this film is trying so hard to have a field day with all the groovy slang it tries to pull off instead of..oh I don’t know..an actual good comical storyline as it’s billed as ‘Comic Noir”, that it strikes as inauthentic. I’m sure most, including myself, probably expected this to be the next “Boogie Nights,” and yes, it features the most sexual innuendos, if nothing else, that Anderson has had since that 1997 breakout. But the film isn’t funny..and seems to just try too hard to be a bit Coen-esque is the only way I can think to describe it.
Now here’s the best part..hold on to your hats as yes, (screeches to a halt) I left after an hour 40 minutes or so..as while I understood it was trying to tell a story and what it was, what I didn’t care about in any way shape or form, is about that story or how it ends. I didn’t give 2 shits about any character as most were just beyond the silly & ridiculous that I can sometimes find endearing and funny..but I didn’t. And I wasn’t the only one. It was a small screening and not only did my friend also want to leave..but about 5 other people did even earlier than us. I rarely am someone to do this btw..I can usually stick out just about anything, (the last time I couldn’t was Les Misérables after 2 long torturous hours). But with this film, the thought of having to stay another hour as yes, it’s 2 1/2 hrs long..was just not for me. Again, I just didn’t care. I know others will and I wish them the best. For me..nah. And yeah..sorry to all for harshing your mellow dude..but Cowabunga I guess!
Grade: D- (not a F)
*Note: Screening at Malibu Theatres, Sunday, December 7th, courtesy of Warner Bros. Film to be out in limited release December 12th; Nationwide on December 25th.
(See grading scale)