With his fastest turn-around in well over a decade, Paul Thomas Anderson completed production on Inherent Vice last summer, just around a year after initial screenings of The Master began. In adapting Thomas Pynchon‘s 2009 novel, the director has been hard at work in his editing suite (with composer Jonny Greenwood, as recently indicated), and he’ll be continuing that process through the summer, having opted to bypass Cannes, despite some rumors indicating otherwise.

However, the film is in a good-enough shape to have an early screening, from which we’ve received the first impressions, thanks to an attendee of the event. In case you haven’t been keeping tabs, Vice follows Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix), a pot-smoking detective on a kidnapping case in 1970’s Los Angeles, backed by the ensemble of Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Benicio del Toro, Martin ShortJena Malone, and many more.

With comparisons to films (and iconic characters) from the Coens and Robert Altman, our source also reveals the current cut runs around two-and-a-half-hours, which is familiar territory for Anderson — and promising, considering this is shaping up to be a return to sprawling ensemble work. With a release from Warner Bros. still eight months away, we’ll have to play the waiting game, but one can see the brief impression below:

Mix together The Big Lebowski and Altman‘s The Long Goodbye, turn it into a two-and-a-half hour PT Anderson epic and you’re getting close to the awesome experience of Inherent Vice. Even Joaquin Phoenix‘s performance has echoes of 70’s Elliot Gould with a touch of The Dude. But don’t get me wrong, this film is its own animal. A drug-fueled detective story filled with great psychedelic music and beautiful, grainy cinematography, it’s both hilarious and confounding at times. But Anderson does an incredible job of making the incredibly complex plot both comprehensible and entertaining. Even though he’s apparently said he’s still tinkering, it felt like a finished film and will definitely go down as one of my favorites of his.

Inherent Vice will open on December 12th, 2014.

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