Joaquin Phoenix plays Doc, a sloppy private investigator in 1970 Los Angeles who operates, inexplicably, out of a doctor’s office. When an ex-girlfriend (Katherine Waterston) goes missing, he conducts a haphazard investigation into her disappearance that involves dead people who aren’t dead, drug dealers and kidnapped real estate moguls. All of these things are being investigated by a guy who’s seriously high most of the time, and just sort of piecing things together at his own mellow, sometimes clumsy pace. Paul Thomas Anderson’s is a simultaneously goofy and complicated take on the Thomas Pynchon novel that puts the director back on the right track after the relatively disappointing The Master. Phoenix is terrific, as is Josh Brolin as a jar-headed cop with whom he’s constantly butting heads. The likes of Martin Short, Owen Wilson and Reese Witherspoon all make sweet contributions. Those who smoke a lot of pot will probably have an easier time with this intentionally spacey movie. Those who have never indulged might find things confusing the first couple of times around.

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