“Bigfoot” Josh Brolin stomps through and steals “Inherent Vice”


“Luckily,” Josh Brolin growls, “I don’t take these characters
Some times he’s the “No Country for Old Men” anti hero, sometimes Brolin
plays villains (“American Gangster”), corrupt to the core. But if you want him
to pick up another badge, if you want him to play another cop, after “American
Gangster” and “Gangster Squad,” you’ve got to show the man that he won’t be
playing “a caricature.”
Paul Thomas Anderson, looking for an actor to play Bigfoot, a door-kicking,
civil rights-violating straight arrow in his film of Thomas Pynchon’s comic
novel “Inherent Vice,” had such a character. Brolin was sold the minute he read
the scene where the brute of a hippy-hating 1970 LAPD detective is berated and
belittled when he gets home.
“I like seeing a guy, even a guy I’m playing, put in his place. That’s the
reality of who they really are, contrasted with how he wants to be perceived —
man who thinks he’s a big deal, Bigfoot, put down by his wife.”
“Vice” is a picaresque/Altmanesque comic mystery thriller about a pot-smoking
hippy private detective, Doc (Joaquin Phoenix) trying to save a former lover
(Katherine Waterston), track down a missing surf music sax player/snitch (Owen
Wilson) and figure out how a cokehead dentist (Martin Short) is pulling the
strings of the drug trade, the rehab industry and the highly lucrative
reconstructive dentistry business in restoring drug-abused teeth. Like a lot of
Thomas Pynchon’s work, it is packed with characters with colorful names and even
more colorful backgrounds, and is stuffed with scenarios that could be
important, or could be nothing more than comic asides.
And at every turn, there’s Bigfoot, confronting the slightly-buzzed Doc with
fists or wit.
“Welcome to a WORLD of inconvenience!”
“Inherent Vice” is about the culture clash of people Richard Nixon labeled
“The Silent Majority” and hippydom — “freaks,” stoners, the drop-out
“It’s one belief system vs. another,” is Brolin’s take. “I love how Bigfoot
tries to hang on to this idea he has of himself, this ‘Right Stuff’ guy who
believes in something and stands for something and that you have to have
integrity. A family. It’s not about ‘free love,’ it’s about having rights and
wrongs, a society with structure to it. That’s Bigfoot. Then, you go into his
house and see how totally emasculated he is. There’s no reality to his ‘Right
Stuff.’ It’s just his delusion.”
Brolin laughs.
“He’s the child in the grocery store having a massive tantrum because people
aren’t giving him what he wants, aren’t behaving in a way he wants them to.
Bigfoot, by the end, realizes he’s never going to get his Froot Loops. And he’s
having an absolute, total meltdown.”
“Inherent Vice” is a mixed bag, in terms of reviews. But Brolin and Phoenix
are earning praise for their scenes, “little gems of comic business” (David
Edelstein, New York Magazine), with Ethan Alter in Film Journal International
opining that “Brolin in particular is a joy to watch here” delivering “a
live-wire turn that hits as many unexpected, unpredictable notes as the movie
“He’s so wild and creative and inventive and funny,” co-star Jena Malone, who
plays the wife of the missing snitch/sax player. “I never thought of him having
comedy in this tough guy exterior.”
The “Chinatown Meets Cheech and Chong” nature of “Inherent Vice” makes the
film a complex, meandering mystery with a darkly goofy overcoat. And nothing
captures that like a scene Anderson and Brolin cooked up, with the cop
threatening the blitzed gumshoe by phone. We see Bigfoot’s home life and in a
moment figure out the life his tough talk and big foot are trying to hide.
“Bigfoot’s on the phone, and his little boy is sitting up on the bar,” Brolin
recalls. “I tell him to go to bed, Paul had the idea that the kid should pour
his dad a drink. And I suggested to Paul, ‘What if he slid the glass over to the
kid, as if he’s done this a million times?'”

The child — he can’t be more
than five — expertly delivers just the right amount of Johnny Walker into the
whisky tumbler, a pre-school bartender.
“It’s a funny bit, and it shows Bigfoot for the incredibly selfish vortex
that he is, and the world exists to serve his wants and needs,” Brolin says. And
it encapsulates the film’s big theme.
“We all have, every generation, that thing that’s pulling us down and
distracting us, that we have to deny. Booze, way back when Bigfoot was young. Or
drugs, then, when the movie is set. Now? Smart phones now.”

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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