Monday, January 12, 2015

Inherent Vice Review

I don't typically come right out in a review and recommend the source material a movie is based on, because I try to focus solely on the film itself, but before you go see the new Paul Thomas Anderson film Inherent Vice, but you should read the source material of the same name by acclaimed author Thomas Pynchon. I had already tasted the deliciously bizarre world occupied by characters like Larry "Doc" Sportello, Shasta Fay Hepworth, Mickey Wolfmann and, last but not least, "Bigfoot" Bjornsen thanks to my reading the book well in advance of seeing it brought to the big screen. The craziest thing is, not only did I not have the film spoiled for me by knowing what would unfold, I actually was still a bit confused trying to piece together the puzzle while watching.

While I read the novel, at times I had absolutely no idea what was happening but by the end I knew I absolutely loved what all the words amounted to. The film follows a similar pattern, and it isn't that the plot itself is complicated, its the way it navigates through it that makes it occasionally challenging to follow. Joaquin Phoenix plays the lead role of Larry "Doc" Sportello, a drugged out private investigator who is tasked with a job working for his ex-girlfriend Shasta, who hires Doc to prevent the potential abduction of her new lover Mickey. 

My intention is not to make this film seem ridiculous or daunting. I mean, it is ridiculous, but it absolutely needs to be seen. PT Anderson is a modern genius auteur, a man who I have often compared to Stanley Kubrick which is probably the biggest compliment you can pay a filmmaker. When I make such a comparison, it isn't meant to say they are on equal footing because I simply cannot go there yet with PTA, but instead just when you compare their careers in general. Anderson is one of an elite group who actually have the balls to essentially take on any genre and absolutely nail it, which is rare and something that needs to be cherished. If a lesser filmmaker attempted to transition from the tone of The Master to an adaptation of Inherent Vice, I would have assumed it was destined for failure, but PTA? Why the hell not, the guy can take absolutely anything and craft a masterpiece out of it.

Kubrick made heavy, serious films like Paths of Glory, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining, yet he is also responsible for quite possibly the greatest comedic work of all time with Dr. Strangelove. Paul Thomas Anderson delivers There Will Be Blood, The Master, Boogie Nights and Magnolia, and then all the sudden he comes out of nowhere with a drugged out, laugh out loud funny film like this, and he knocks it out of the park.

For some reason I am not ready to place Inherent Vice at the same level as previous PTA masterpieces just yet, but I know for a fact it will get there with a revisit, and shit does this not only demand a revisit, it flat out deserves it. There is so much to take in, so much to comprehend, so much to appreciate, even if you watch it the first time and ask yourself "What the hell did I just watch?" you will do so with a smile on your face, because whatever it is, it's fucking great.



  1. Folks who aren’t Anderson or Pynchon fans going in aren’t likely to be won over, especially at its long-ass length of 2 and a half hours, but those who are hip to its vibe and can get into a groove with its stoned tone are likely to think it’s a gas, man.

    1. haha well said Thomas and I completely agree. As I watched the film, I knew it was safe to say it wouldn't be for everyone.