I might be a bit mixed up on this, thinking I’d already read this opinion over at Biblioklept (but maybe I didn’t?), but if not, let me state it here: Inherent Vice the movie and the book should be taken in together, one right after the other and again in reverse. Instead of an ouroboros of two snakes eating each others’ tails, these two forms of the same story represent two flowers blooming from each other, the stigma of one flower forming the stem of the other.
They weren’t written together like Author C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick tackling 2001. It’s much more like No Country For Old Men (another incredible book-to-movie translation). The plot of the book is complete. All threads are tied up together in a tight knot at the end, no matter how long, tangled, or frayed the threads are. The movie leaves all the threads split and splintering in a dizzying dash through all of the books conspiratorial parts. But the movie reveals the most important symmetries of the book in a compassionate and optimistic way: Bigfoot’s loyalty to his ex-partner, Doc’s loyalty to his ex-old lady, and the bond between Doc and Bigfoot. Those two scenes in the movie–Shasta’s return and Bigfoot’s door stomp–that illuminate those relationships best are actually amalgamations of several different scenes in the book. They are the scenes of the movie. And they should excite you to read the book.
They did for me, and now here I am reading The Crying of Lot 49 and Vineland at the same time.