Movie Review for Inherent Vice
Paul Thomas Anderson is near the top of the list when it comes to independent film directors. But as that kind of director, he can fall into that realm of eccentric freedom that plagues a lot of independent movies. Some of his films have been right on the money (Boogie Nights, The Master), some brilliant (There Will Be Blood), a mixed bag of humor and oddity (Punch Drunk Love), and a three hour symphony of tragic melancholy that feels like a hundred pound weight on your chest (Magnolia). The man is a very good director with his casting, visual style, and attention to detail but, when his films go in a direction that makes more sense to himself than to the audience, then the film fails as a whole.
Sad to say it but, Inherent Vice is just that type of film. A movie with all of the elements for greatness, only to be an in"co"herent waste of talent and of a hundred and fifty minutes. This movie doesn't know how to ground itself. Right from the get go, we (the audience) are shown the world through Joaquin Phoenix's (Walk the Line) Visine deficient eyes, and we have to go along for the ride whether we understand it or not.
The sad part is, that so many things were done right. The costumes look great. The set designs and locations also look authentic to the era (1970's). The performances and sense of humor is very good as well. But if those things are shown from the perspective of a stoner hippie with early onset Alzheimer's, it all just falls into disappointment. The film goes from scene to gibberish laden scene without giving the audience a chance to register what has just been said. The large amount of characters also doesn't help the storytelling process. I guess my little brain couldn't process all of the information.
The acting itself is great. Phoenix comes off as idiotically sympathetic in the lead role. His best moments are when he's interacting with his ex-girlfriend, Shasta, played by Katherine Waterston (Michael Clayton). She has only a few scenes but, she pulls you into every moment (even when she isn't naked).
The level of humor is fluent throughout with sight gags and reactions that will have you laughing out loud. Josh Brolin (Men in Black III) is hilarious as a loose cannon police detective with an affinity for chocolate bananas and Japanese pancakes. If the film had been more focused on him, it would have been much better. In only one scene, Eric Roberts (The Specialist) gives a magnetic performance. Martin Short (Jiminy Glick) also has a small cameo and comes off as a horny Mad Hatter on coke.
Owen Wilson (Armageddon) has another forgettable performance, because I was once again distracted by his creepy nose that's even more vomit inducing than ever. I mean it's starting to look like silly putty stuck to the middle of his face. Maybe they can mold it into a real nose for once. I apologize for going off on an Owen Wilson nose tirade again (this isn't the first time). My therapist told me to acknowledge my faults. NNNNNOOOOOSSSSSEEEEE!!!!! The many other characters are all performed well but, there's so many of them that you get as confused as Phoenix in the first thirty minutes.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Inherent Vice
The Good- The six minute uncut take of Phoenix and Waterston seducing each other, the massage parlor "special", Brolin's final scene, and the hairy breasts photo reaction.
The Bad- If you took out most of the scenes of Phoenix getting high, the overlong two and a hour run time could have been brought down to a less, sleep-inducing, hundred minutes.
The Ugly- Take the comedic brilliance of the The Big Lebowski, and the wacky, over-the-top, drug tripping of, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and you might get a good idea of what this film tries to be.
Final Thoughts on Inherent Vice
Similar to last year's The Counselor, in that everything looks good and the acting is great, but the bad storytelling leaves nothing but a big, beautiful, painting, with a black hole at the center of it. What a shame. Wasted cast and way too long. If you're into dropping acid, then go and see Inherent Vice. Otherwise, watch it for free on cable in a couple of years, where you can take bathroom breaks and fast-forward through all of the B.S.
Rating- 4 out of 10
Inherent Vice (2014)
R | 2h 28min | Comedy, Crime, Drama | 9 January 2015 (USA)
In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles private investigator Larry "Doc" Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Writers: Paul Thomas Anderson (written for the screen by), Thomas Pynchon (based on the novel by)
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson