Adam’s Verdict 2/5
Paul Thomas Anderson is a talented filmmaker, Inherent Vice looks to be the exception that proves the rule. His latest attempt returns Anderson to The Valley, a setting he is known for using in unique ways, sadly his latest attempt isn’t a return to his usual form.
“Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is an unconventional Private Eye in 1970 Los Angeles. When an ex-girlfriend, Shasta Fay Hempworth (Katherine Waterson), visits the drugged up hippie she lays out a complicated case that fuels the convoluted and barely cohesive film. Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts) was having an affair with Shasta before his wife and her lover kidnapped him. Doc decides to help and investigates the disappearance of not only Wolfmann, but other people who go missing as well. The list of missing people grows and becomes personal to Doc when Shasta goes missing as well. All the mysteries seem to center around the mysterious words “Golden Fang.” High-strung Detective Christian ‘Bigfoot’ Bjornsen (Josh Brolin) acts as Doc’s reluctant partner although the two are constantly at each other’s throats for very different choices in lifestyle.
The characters are cartoons. The acting is goofy and over the top for the most part. Joaquin Phoenix and Josh Brolin each have some moments where the quality actors they are shines through the murk that Inherent Vice is. The movie, along with the characters, can’t find a tone. It’s serious and gritty, silly, confusing, and heavily influenced by the character’s love of drugs. The scenes are strange for the sake of being strange. They feel barely strung together making the movie overall a mishmash of scenes that only seem slightly relevant to the plot. The characters ramble on in ridiculous scenarios and “Golden Fang” is jammed into every scene just to remind the audience that this stuff is connected, sort of.
The only place where Paul Thomas Anderson shows that he had a hand in this mess is the way the film was shot. Anderson has a way of making even mundane or gritty scenes beautiful. There are many of these scenes in Inherent Vice, sadly they are too sparse and far apart to amount to much.
Without going too far into spoilers incase reading a two star review doesn’t scare you off from seeing this mess, there is no payoff to the film either. At all. Don’t waste your time on this. Instead find an Anderson movie you haven’t seen or re-watch one. I recommend Boogie Nights.
Review via SitDown, ShutUp