Sunday, January 11, 2015

Movie Review: Inherent Vice

Paul Thomas Anderson and Joaquin Phoenix, together again in a hilarious 1970's caper film? Sign me up.

Inherent Vice is another slab of thought provoking and gut-busting genius courtesy of PTA [The Master, There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights], that continues his illustrious love affair with both Southern California locales, and weird fucking people in general. The film, adapted from Thomas Pynchon's head trip novel of the same name, follows hippie turned private eye "Doc" Sportello, as he bumbles through Los Angeles trying to crack an increasingly bizarre and convoluted missing persons case. Doc, played by a mega amped Phoenix, falls down a rabbit hole or weirdness, getting mixed up with the LAPD, neo-Nazi bikers, black power gang members, real estate moguls, happy ending girls, a shadowy international drug cartel and totally cracked out dentists. Trying to decipher Inherent Vice's plot is an effort in futility. It's like trying to ride a tornado, it's just not gonna happen.

Some people might be put off by the film's lack of coherence. I myself couldn't help but feel disappointed with its haphazard plot as I first walked out of the theater. But the more I thought about the picture and digested the whole experience, the more I wanted to back for seconds. Like all of PTA's movies, Inherent Vice literally screams out for repeated viewings [anyone else see There Will Be Blood three times at the cinema? Anyone?]. The Master was a fairly ethereal film that focused less on traditional narrative and more on feeling and tone. Inherent Vice follows a similar path, but while The Master was big on drama and had a somber, underlying tone, Inherent Vice is big on zany irreverence and is all about bombast.

Phoenix leads an all-star cast of over the top caricatures who deliver confusing bouts of exposition and side splitting laughs by the boat load. Josh Brolin is genius as Bigfoot, Doc's reluctant ally on the LAPD who spends half the film trying to make his life a living hell. Martin Short's cameo is pure comedic gold and Doc's uber hot girlfriend Shasta, played by newcomer Katherine Waterston, is a surf girl fantasy come true. Brilliant performances, gorgeous camera work [Robert Elswit & PTA are a match made in heaven], an awesome soundtrack and lots of laughs, Inherent Vice creates a beautifully hazy cinematic experience. Just don't be so uptight about the plot you'll be okay. Right on.


  1. I love this movie!!!!! This is one of the most articulate reviews I've read thus far.

  2. One of the most interesting, entertaining and captivating movies I've seen in decades! Visually stunning. Definitely one of those that will be appealing to a select group. If you're a Paul Thomas Anderson fan and appreciate Thomas Pychon especially. I would recommend seeing in theaters, though since the visuals carry a lot of weight in making this beauty of a film.

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