Inherent Vice

Inherent Vice photo starrating-2stars.jpgOh Paul Thomas Anderson! It’s getting harder to believe that you were the auteur behind that masterpiece of yours, Boogie Nights. In 2007 you came close with the brilliant There Will Be Blood. At least you’ve always been interesting. Even The Master had that “processing” session that Lancaster Dodd administered on Freddie Quell. Now you’ve gone and released Inherent Vice, a happily incoherent, meandering head trip in the life of an LA private eye.

Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is that laid back private investigator. Let’s just say he loses focus pretty easily. He’s visited by his ex-girlfriend Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston) who wants him to investigate a paranoid sounding plot against her current boyfriend, real-estate mogul Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts). Apparently his wife is trying to have him committed to a mental institution. But that’s really only the beginning. Along the way Doc meets a overzealous LAPD detective (Josh Brolin) that injects a spark of life amongst all the sleepy “far out man” attitudes. As Doc’s strange case becomes stranger, the narrative grows foggy. The point becomes less and less clear. That, my dear reader, IS the point. The cast list balloons to include speaking parts for over 25 actors I think. Frankly I lost count. These people intersect, reconnect and, in one particularly indelible scene, have sex. Shasta seemingly leaves the story at one juncture, but her return is, shall we say, (ahem) memorable?

Inherent Vice is an aimless trudge through the fog of a marijuana haze. That’s to be expected with a movie adapted from a novel by Thomas Pynchon. Nobody has ever turned a Pynchon book into a movie before. I mean Gravity’s Rainbow is kind of famous for being un-adaptable, So I’ll give Anderson credit for trying. Some will champion its mystifying merits. Translation: Inherent Vice is an acquired taste.  One’s enjoyment will partially rest on how much you value a plot in a 2 ½ hour film. The atmosphere is so drugged out you could almost get high by association. I couldn’t find much to enjoy in these shenanigans. And that’s all this is. A bunch of half baked gags. Pun intended. Any story that weaves in characters named Puck Beaverton, Japonica Fenway and Bigfoot Bjornsen obviously isn’t meant to taken seriously. Add a cultural 1970s LA milieu which finds room for the Aryan Brotherhood, the Manson family murders, an Asian massage parlor and something called Golden Fang which could be a secretive Chinese syndicate or simply an alliance of wealthy dentists. That tongue in cheek attitude is good for a few scattered laughs I suppose.  Inherent Vice is an “experience” to be sure, but I’ll pass on taking a second hit.


23 Responses to “Inherent Vice”

  1. Good review. It’s a pretty crazy movie, but I think that’s what I loved so much about it. Even if, you know, it isn’t Anderson’s best.


  2. Nice review Mark.

    Not sure if this is playing i Sarasota but I will check.
    FYI – I read a review by someone or maybe I heard it on NPR – the film was called a ‘visionary mess’.

    Which is almost as good as your own ‘aimless trudge’.


  3. So would you argue a new title…perhaps, Incoherent Vice? *rimshot*

    The only P. T. Anderson movie I’ve really liked so far was The Master (haven’t seen Boogie Nights yet), but from the trailers, Inherent Vice looked like something I’d really enjoy. However, I don’t know if I could stand a 2.5 hour movie unless it actually makes some sort of sense.


    • I would argue for a new title except book reviewer Sam Anderson beat us to the punch way back in 2009 when he reviewed Pynchon’s novel in New York magazine.

      What PTA movies have you seen?


      • I’ve seen Punch-Drunk Love, The Master, and There Will Be Blood. Didn’t like PDL, loved The Master, and I thought TWBB great but a little boring. I should probably reevaluate it though.

        I also started watching Boogie Nights on a plane a few nights ago, but I got thirty minutes into it and turned it off because I was sitting next to my grandmother and I didn’t want the movie to offend her. What I saw of it so far, though, was outstanding.


  4. Hmm…yeah, have been hearing several folks say this is not top-tier Anderson. Given how few of his films I’ve seen (this will be my 3rd, so i guess that’s not *too* small a sample size) I’m yet to determine how “bad” Anderson films can be. I have this feeling that even with its gratuitous runtime and drug haze, it’ll surpass a great many things I’ll see in these coming weeks. That’s if we get this one, of course. We didn’t get Foxcatcher, after all. Lol.


  5. After reading your review, I posted mine for you to read because I think you might get a laugh out of it! simply put 2 1/2 hrs of nonsense.


  6. I’m one of the few people who think PTA is hit or miss. I think most automatically get excited when he has a new film out. That’s not really the case with me. There Will Be Blood is his one film I would call ‘great’. As for this one, it doesn’t excite me much.

    Love the review.


  7. Still scratching my head after seeing this film. Your review nails it.


  8. NooOoOoOoOOOoo I’m so disappointed! 😦


  9. May be skipping this one.


  10. I’ve never been a huge fan of Paul Thomas Anderson, but I love detective stories and I have an appreciation for stories that benefit from “herbal” enhancement so I’m hopeful that I’ll enjoy this movie. Your reviews is actually the first negative one I’ve read about the picture. I know people who have taken three, four, and five hits of this film. I could easily see though how it could be an acquired taste like you say. I’m seeing this movie on Tuesday and I can’t wait.


  11. Damn, man! I did not want to hear this. I had very high hopes. I still think The Master is one Anderson’s best but can understand that it wasn’t for everyone. I’m hoping I take a similar stance with this. Good review, Mark.


    • When I write reviews, It is never my intention to stop someone from enjoying a film they really want to see. I merely hope to educate the so reader can make an informed decision as to whether or nor to watch a film.

      I know your tastes, I suspect Inherent Vice is something you will appreciate.

      Liked by 1 person

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