Film Review – Inherent Vice (2014)

Vice - post

Title – Inherent Vice (2014)

Director – Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood)

Cast – Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Katherine Waterston, Martin Short, Eric Roberts, Benicio Del Toro, Jena Malone

Plot – Good luck trying to figure this one out! All you really need to know is it’s the 70’s, there’s lots of hippie action, lots of civil rights violations and a mutton chop sporting P.I by the name of Larry “Doc” Sportello (Phoenix) who after a visit by his ex-girlfriend Shasta Fay (Waterston) gets involved in the case of missing real estate tycoon Michael Wolfmann (Roberts). This case will lead Doc down a strange path indeed.

“Doc may not be a “Do-Gooder” but he’s done good”

Review by Eddie on 12/03/2015

It’s a strange feeling to get after watching a Paul Thomas Anderson flick, but his latest odyssey (this film is a very long 2 and a half hours), Inherent Vice, is a film that will leave you cold and empty even though it possesses most of the qualities we’ve come to expect from PTA as one of the modern eras most accomplished and unique filmmakers. Adapting Thomas Pynchon’s seemingly un-filmable book of the same name is likely the reason for why Inherent Vice feels like a well-made trip into nothing and is also perhaps where the film succeeds most in its telling of a tale that just may well exist to frustrate and entertain in equal measure.

I challenge anyone to absolutely gather what is going on in this depraved tale of informants, tycoons, hippies, FBI agents, boats and crazy dentists among other things, as it’s nigh on impossible to keep a track of what’s going on about halfway through the movie and by then you’ll know if your digging this wild ride or wanting out and I suggest that many may find the film almost irredeemably unwatchable even though it’s one of the finest recreations of the 70’s seen in the last few years. From the sporadic song listings, the fine dream like cinematography (with added smoke) from the always impressive Robert Elswit and the often haunting score from Radiohead member Jonny Greenwood, Inherent Vice presents a finely produced veneer but no matter the values of this or the impressive acting turns there’s nothing to transform the material into anything classic, which we have now come to expect from PTA.

After great success together in a professional sense with their collaboration on the Master, it’s fantastic to see Joaquin Phoenix (with the wildest facial hair seen on screen in some time) and PTA work together once more and Phoenix is on impressive form as Doc, a The Dude like character that just wants simple things from life but ends up in all types of sticky situations. Phoenix’s comedic timing and physical prowess for such material is a highlight of the film’s acting trope and his play offs with Josh Brolin’s hard fisted Detective “Bigfoot” and Owen Wilson’s unwitting snitch Coy Harlingen provide some of the films best singular moments. There are however others in the cast that feel quite short-changed. From Reese Witherspoon to Benicio Del Toro through to the cameo of Martin Short, many appearances in the film feel like mere novelty value where the film could’ve done with more memorable side players. It’s a big spanning tale that feels like it features a few to many empty vessels, there for nothing more than to complicate proceedings further.

Inherent Vice looks and sounds fantastic, it has some very fun performances and is unlike anything you’ve likely ever seen but it also feels like a massive underuse of directing talent and acting talent that could’ve been so much more. From all reports it sounds like Inherent Vice is almost the perfect adaptation of Pynchon’s source novel yet that doesn’t mean it makes the film any better when taken on face value. Watchable (if overlong) and often weirdly funny, Inherent Vice is without question a lesser Anderson work (that many other directors would claim as one of their best) that is likely to remain one of his weaker films in a filmography that would be the envy of many counterparts.

4 chocolate coated bananas out of 5

23 responses to “Film Review – Inherent Vice (2014)

  1. I can’t disagree with what you’re saying, but I loved the experience so much that understanding the twists and turns of the plot was ultimately unnecessary. I am a huge fan of PT Anderson’s early work (he’d gotten so serious lately), so this comedy was a welcome change of gears to me. Very reminiscent of Altman’s ‘The Long Goodbye’. So good. Either way, good review.

    • Cheers dude, I def had a lot of fun with this one but it did feel a little less than what Anderson is capable of. I am a big fan of his films like TWBB, Magnolia and the Master.

  2. Nice one Eddie. A labyrinthine tale for sure but one that I completely went along with. I think this has been unfairly maligned by many. It’s understandable that a lot of people didn’t take to it at first but it demands a patience that few seemed to be happy to give.

  3. I saw the trailer quite a few times as it was a preview before all the Oscar films, and I still had no real idea about what it was about. That scene when Brolin’s character orders in Japanese got huge laughs. Did it get one in the film for you?

  4. Nervous about ever watching this one. TWBB, contrary to general critical reception, left me cold. Have only ever watched it once. So Inherent Vice, with such damning reviews as I have seen… probably better off well clear of it, watching Boogie Nights and Magnolia again instead. Seems this is one director who left me behind.

  5. Nice write-up. You hit pretty much what I thought of it, except I thought it was a classic, I haven’t laughed that much in quite some time. You’re spot on about Phoenix and Brolin too, their characters played off each other soooo well

  6. I never leave comments for practically anything on the Internet ever, but your review prompted me to do so. I like how you explained everything so clearly. I walked out the cinema 10 mins ago, and your review shined a light on my thought process. It’s true people are judging PTA’s latest unfairly, due to his bigger film accolades. The film was again executed perfectly, with such a whacky, twisted ride that still leave me not overly satisfied afterward. Not one of his best, but it was good in a different way. I’ll place inherent vice next to punch drunk love in my PTA collection, I feel theres similar comedic tones between the two. Thanks for the great review!

      • Not a problem mate. Nice to know there are other passionate movie goers out there who can truly see the beautiful qualities movies have to offer. Thanks for the reply!

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