Paul Thomas Anderson, innovative maker of such very serious films as There Will Be Blood and The Master, tries on a comedy this time, beautifully adapting Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 sun-dappled beach-noir novel about a stoner detective (a spot-on Joaquin Phoenix) named Doc in early-70s El Lay. Think Raymond Chandler by way of Cheech & Chong. Josh Brolin’s great as Doc’s nemesis, the straight-laced cop “Bigfoot” Bjornson.
It’s unpredictable, amusingly louche, strange, and deranged. And if it’s not always logical, well, don’t try to figure it out. Best to just lie back and let the low-key parody take you. (148 min)