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