DVD Review - Inherent Vice

I have not been a fan of Paul Thomas Anderson recently. His last two features were lacking in humor. Both Daniel Day-Lewis and Joaquin Phoenix had their comedic moments, but those previous films weren't outright comedies, which doesn't seem to be the case here.

Anderson was nominated for Best Writing at the 87th Oscars for adapting the book by Thomas Pynchon and Anderson certainly seems to embrace Pynchon's levity. Like the smoke-filled or cloudy air that occasionally hangs over certain scenes, so is Anderson's tone as light and hazy.

The action starts in Gordita Beach, California, the fictional town modeled after Manhattan Beach, where Anderson follows Larry Sportello nicknamed "Doc," played by Joaquin Phoenix, a 1970's gumshoe or private eye who isn't an actual doctor but his office is inside a doctor's office. That's most likely how he got his nickname. He's referred to as a hippie dope fiend. He has long hair, which he sometimes curls that hangs past his neck. He has thick sideburns that probably were at once mutton chops, and he most notably does a lot of drugs.

His ex-girlfriend Shasta brings him a missing person's case, which ensnares him in a murder mystery and an even grander conspiracy. I couldn't trouble you with any more particulars because I lost interest. Plus, I don't think the particulars of the case matter. Anderson's mentor, Robert Altman, did a film about a gumshoe in the 1970's, The Long Goodbye (1973), but its plot had a lot more weight. Here, the plot like many things is light and hazy, or maybe just convoluted.

The movie seems designed merely to provide comic set-pieces or weird moments to actors like Benicio del Toro, Martin Short, Owen Wilson and Eric Roberts. None of them engaged me. The only things that I thought were relatively funny were Doc's visit to a cathouse and practically all of his scenes opposite Josh Brolin who played Lt. Christian Bjornsen of the LAPD. In the latter case, there was hilarious sexual metaphors on display, and, in the former, there was blatant sex just put on display.

The film was also nominated for Best Achievement in Costume Design at the 87th Oscars. I will give credit as I was impressed with the overall look of the film, which perfectly captured the time period. I wasn't as impressed with the cinematography, which mimics the aesthetics of a 1970's film, but, as a whole, it feels smaller, less bold and certainly less ambitious than Anderson's previous films.

Unlike The Master (2012), this film was not photographed using a 70mm camera. The scope is reduced. The epic nature isn't there. Anderson indulges too much and drags the movie out way longer than it should have been.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated R for drug use throughout, sexual content, graphic nudity, language and some violence.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 28 mins.


Popular Posts