Friday, January 9, 2015


INHERENT VICE, Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon stoner-detective novel, is a film which fully embraces the time period it is set in. Taking place in the early 1970’s but before the hippie-movement has completely died out, it is saturated in the unstructured, meandering, and free-thinking lifestyles that the era was known for. The film and its world is shown to us through the eyes, ears, and inner-thoughts of the main character; an important point to keep in mind as the plot unspools.

Stoner-detective/private-eye Doc (Joaquin Phoenix), is hired by his ex-girlfriend Shasta (Katherine Waterston), to find her billionaire lover Mr. Wolfmann (Eric Roberts), who has vanished.

What follows next is a twisting and turning complex plot involving Mr. Wolfmann’s wife (not Shasta) and his wife’s boyfriend plotting to throw the billionaire into a looney bin, tossed in with a cast of drifters, surfers, dopers, loan sharks, undercover detectives, and a group of dentists involved in a tax fraud scheme…all taking place in the fading sunshine of the California hippie counter-culture. All this is seen through the altered senses of our hero, Doc…who constantly hears the voice of reason in his head as embodied by his old lover. The plot, while complex but not complicated, comes across to the audience as Doc experiences it…with confused, stoned, and paranoid senses. It’s a clever and engaging way to guide us through what could have been a very dry film, and it never fails to work.

For every door that Doc opens on his way to solve the case, at least six more open with more mysteries, danger, and even more dangerous and mysterious characters. Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson takes full advantage of Doc’s inner-voice (beautifully performed by musician Joanna Newsom); using it not only as Doc’s guide but as a narrator/guide for the audience, and makes the ever-changing plot easier to follow. It’s a fresh take on the old film-noir genre and it works very well. Anderson also fully embraces the era. The film’s look, style, music, humor, and method of acting not only makes INHERENT VICE feel like it takes place in the 1970’s, but makes it feel like it was made in the 1970’s. The film is a goddamn time machine in every way and its atmosphere succeeds in whisking the audience away. Anderson shoots many long scenes in one continuous take, making the actors work very hard for their money and they all rise to the occasion.

And those actors are superb. Joaquin Phoenix puts on a physical performance for the ages, and truly looks like he was born to be a P.I. in the seventies. He and Reese Witherspoon again have tremendous chemistry together. Her character could not be further removed from Doc (he’s a hippie, she’s a lawyer/prosecutor), but together they make for a very believable couple. Josh Brolin nearly steals the show as a tough L.A. cop who is intent on destroying Doc, and Martin Short, as a corrupt dentist, puts on a very memorable and outrageous performance. The rest of the cast, including Katherine Waterston, Benicio Del Toro, Maya Rudolph, Owen Wilson, Jena Malone, and Eric Roberts are all excellent.

Doc’s investigation opens so many more doors and keeps on introducing so many more characters and plot that even after his main goal is complete, the film takes forever to wrap up what seems like a thousand different yet connected points. Those committed enough to the film will be wholly rewarded, as INHERENT VICE does make you work for your buck. It is 100% committed to its source material, even maybe to a fault for audiences looking for an easier story…but as a whole Paul Thomas Anderson has crafted an excellent piece of true cinema.


No comments:

Post a Comment

A few rules:
1. Personal attacks not tolerated.
2. Haters welcome, if you can justify it.
3. Swearing is goddamn OK.