Inherent Vice (2014)
A Review by: Jeff Turner
Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson
Written by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Distributed by: Warner Bros, IAC Films, Ghoulardi Film Company
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Katherine Waterston, Joanna Newsom, Josh Brolin, Maya Rudolph, Owen Wilson, Eric Roberts, Michael Kenneth Williams, Martin Short, Jena Malone, Benecio Del Toro.
I’ll be on time from now on, I promise. I know a little bit about the source material Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest is based off of. From what little of it I’ve read it was inevitable that the film adaptation was going to be toned down. Even with all of the necessary changes Anderson made to the material, INHERENT VICE is still pretty nuts, and doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. Despite this befuddlement at the plot, the film is a blast.
Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix, great as usual), is a PI and professional deadbeat. He is hired by his girlfriend Shasta Fey Hepworth (Katherine Waterston) to investigate a plot to kidnap Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts) instigated by his wife. Sportello gets sidetracked, with an elaborate plot that draws in “Renaissance Detective” Bigfoot Bjornsen (Josh Brolin, who has a show-stealing scene involving Sportello’s weed stash near the end), a surf-rocker and recovering heroin addict (Owen Wilson), Sportello’s maritime lawyer (Benecio Del Toro), a dentist/sexual deviant (Martin Short), and Nazi’s.
So yeah, a lot to comprehend, and not much time to comprehend it. It is, in all this chaos, where one has to ask what the point of INHERENT VICE is? It isn’t about what’s happening, although you’re welcome to join in on the ride. It’s about how Sportello reacts to the problems in the world around him. He is so drugged out that he can barely remember what was going on, and he’s came to the realization that’s this is ok.
INHERENT VICE is just as much about the dying days of a decade as it is a character study. Not unlike Anderson’s masterpiece BOOGIE NIGHTS, which looked at the end of the 70’s to set its story, INHERENT VICE is just as much about the culture of the 60’s. The costume design is spectacular, and lends the visual panache that the picture demands.
INHERENT VICE is predominately a comedy, but it veers between comedy and drama often enough that it’s a hard movie to pin down. It’s definitely not Paul Thomas Anderson’s THE BIG LEBOWSKI, as the trailers had led some to suspect, like THE MASTER, another sterling achievement by Anderson, INHERENT VICE is elusive in its general meaning. Still, it’s a hell of a ride, and I have no problem recommending people to go see it just so they can say that they saw it. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing it again.
Suggestion: See It