Mapping Inherent Vice

Film Connections

 Inherent Vice has much in common with, and was probably influenced by, two notable motion pictures: Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye (1973) and the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski (1998).

The Long Goodbye is an adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s detective novel of the same name, but Altman updated the story for the era this film was made in — the early ’70s. As played by Elliott Gould (a far cry from the tough guys who traditionally played hard-boiled P.I. roles), Philip Marlowe bears more than a passing resemblance to Doc Sportello. The film’s displacement of detective tropes into the setting of hippie-era California is in some ways a model for what Pynchon does in Inherent Vice.

The Big Lebowski has obvious similarities to Pynchon’s novel: a stoned, unlikely detective stumbles onto a vast conspiracy that he wants no part of, meeting a cast of increasingly bizarre characters and circumstances along the way. Lebowski is probably the most common reference point in reviews of Inherent Vice.

The website Film Freak Central has good reviews of both films that illuminate their place in the genre and their similarities to Pynchon’s novel; here’s their piece on The Long Goodbye, and here’s the one on The Big Lebowski.

And here are trailers for each film:


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