Inherent Vice (2014)

Inherent Vice (2014)
  • Time: 148 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Crime | Drama
  • Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Katherine Waterston


“Inherent Vice,” is the seventh feature from Paul Thomas Anderson and the first ever film adaption of a Thomas Pynchon novel. When private eye Doc Sportello’s ex-old lady suddenly out of nowhere shows up with a story about her current billionaire land developer boyfriend whom she just happens to be in love with, and a plot by his wife and her boyfriend to kidnap that billionaire and throw him in a looney bin…well, easy for her to say. It’s the tail end of the psychedelic `60s and paranoia is running the day and Doc knows that “love” is another of those words going around at the moment, like “trip” or “groovy,” that’s being way too overused – except this one usually leads to trouble. With a cast of characters that includes surfers, hustlers, dopers and rockers, a murderous loan shark, LAPD Detectives, a tenor sax player working undercover, and a mysterious entity known as the Golden Fang, which may only be a tax dodge set up by some dentists…


  • Inherent Vice starts off incredibly well, piling on visual gags and a crazed narrative that’s hazy like a drug fever dream, but it runs out of steam and has a running time that just can’t support this material. For about an hour and a half the film is quite inspired, as our perpetually stoned lead gets sucked into a labyrinth plot and one bizarre and usually fantastic character after another is thrown at this drug addled mess. The film continues at least an hour well beyond what this narrative can sustain. The pacing is off, the plot just feels deliberately muddled and while there are still plenty of jokes, the film just feels labored and exhausted after a while. Paul Thomas Anderson just didn’t know when to quit on this one. The man is certainly one of the best filmmakers out there and despite Inherent Vice’s shortcomings, it’s still a wonderfully crafted film with some great acting – the cast is uniformly excellent. He may not have pulled off the film completely, but it’s always a pleasure to see a director continue to make bold and challenging work. The film is usually episodic and feels mostly disconnected on a scene to scene basis and there really isn’t a scene that doesn’t work, but PT Anderson didn’t exactly make enough disciplined editing choices to shape the film and trim it down.

  • Inherent Vice is set in 1970, the decade that begat many a California noir such as Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, Arthur Penn’s Night Moves, and Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye. These films and their ilk featured private eyes who were direct descendants of Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade and Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe (in the case of The Long Goodbye, Marlowe himself), the detectives par excellence of hardboiled pulp. Neither Hammett nor Chandler were particularly concerned with the actual solving of the mystery; the mechanics of the investigation were less about the gathering of the following of clues than a means of mingling with an eccentric cast of characters, each bearing peccadilloes, peculiarities, and their own pungent brand of (a)morality.

    Before it sets off on its meandering convolutions, Inherent Vice begins, as all noirs must, with a damsel in distress. Her name is Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston) and she’s a romantic blast from the past for Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix), a private investigator living in the fictional town of Gordita Beach, California. Back when they were together and she was wearing tees and bikini bottoms, she could “go weeks without anything more complicated than a pout.” Now here she was, looking like she swore she’d never look with her flatland gear and straightened hair, telling Doc about the married man she’s been having an affair with, a real estate bigshot by the name of Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts) who’s about to be committed to the loony bin by his wife and her lover so they can get their hands on his money. Maybe Doc can talk to the junior district attorney Penny (Reese Witherspoon) he’s been seeing on the side so the adulterous couple can be thwarted?

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  • Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the greatest film-makers in the world today. Ever since his breakout feature Boogie Nights Anderson has been making one great film after another. He has probably the most consistent track record in Hollywood (along with Tarantino). His films bleed with ambition and ingenuity even if they are adaptations. Heck, he even managed to get a good performance out of Adam Sandler. So, it’s no surprise that Anderson’s seventh feature Inherent Vice has everyone excited.

    Inherent Vice follows the story of drug-fueled detective Doc Sportello as he investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend in 1970 Los Angeles. Inherent Vice finds the director returning to the comedy genre for the first time since 2002’s Punch Drunk Love. Adapted from Thomas Pynchon’s novel of the same name Inherent Vice is an incoherent and highly disconnecting movie and one of the director’s worst efforts. Even with an all-star cast that features the likes of Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterson, Benicio Del Toro, Reese Witherspoon, Martin Short, Eric Roberts, Jena Malone, this is a film that just doesn’t work well. The writing is far from good, the dialogue tries to be too witty and feels like ridiculous babble while the stories amount to nothing.

    The film lacks both the bite and ambition of any of Anderson’s previous ventures. The end result is an overly long, highly meandering effort and a film that’s both boring and utterly confusing. The film has its moments, it’s not all bad. Joaquin Phoenix’s audacious lead performance as Doc Sportello is fun to watch and Josh Brolin gives the film’s best performance as straight-eyed detective ‘Bigfoot’ Bjornsen while Owen Wilson, Martin Short Benicio Del Toro offer good support in their brief appearances. The film is also an improvement over Anderson’s last feature, The Master.

    All in all, Inherent Vice is a well acted but meandering and incoherent film that’s too long and too intelligent for its own good and ranks as one of the directors worst efforts.

    Final Score: 6.1/10

    -Khalid Rafi

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  • It is sort of a weird feeling when you’ve watched a movie spanning two and a half hour that you are not fully sure if you liked it or not. On one hand you appreciate the craftsmanship of the filmmaking. Ultra realistic depiction of hippie driven Los Angeles of the 70’s, on the other, the story which is complicated beyond necessity where stakes are not really high enough.

    “In a California beach community, private detective Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) tends to work his cases through a smoky haze of marijuana. One day, Shasta, a former lover, arrives out of the blue to plead for Doc’s help; it seems that Shasta’s current beau, rich real-estate tycoon Mickey Wolfmann, has a wife who may be plotting to commit him to a mental hospital. When Mickey and Shasta both disappear, Doc navigates a psychedelic world of surfers, stoners and cops to solve the case.”

    On one hand the story sound straight forward, but due to the fact that it is seen through the eyes of a stoner the narration has sometime sleepy or often full of anxiety style, which not all viewers will enjoy. The actual film is narrated by Joanna Newsom who plays Sortilège who is telling us the story of a privet eye Larry “Doc” Sportello brilliantly played by Joaquin Phoenix. Originally Robert Downey Jr. was casted in this role but Paul Thomas Anderson felt he might be too old for the part.
    It must be said that Phoenix’s performance is superb and in a way he maintains our interest when he is on the screen. He is very natural and at times he is almost too underplayed. However where this film truly excels is in supporting cast specially Josh Brolin stands out of the bunch, as a frustrated, beaked banana eating cop, who takes his frustration of loosing a partner on Phoenix’s character. He always have something phallic in his mouth and as we get to know his character he is pushed around by his wife which aggravates him even more. During the movie they bond in some weird way which by the end, culminates with some weird pot eating scene which sort of comes out of the blue, venturing on to a surreal territory.

    In many ways “Inherent Vice” feels disjointed, based on the novel by Thomas Pynchon which I think as book the story might have worked much better.

    To simply put it “Inherent Vice” is a peculiar movie…Normally I like work of Paul Thomas Anderson, but this one is really weird. As I mentioned already the 70’s vibe is spot on, the art design is very realistic for the time period as well as the costume design. All the performances are very solid specially Joaquin Phoenix, but the film as whole does not work for me…It’s just…peculiar…as the audience we too often disengage from the film to truly appreciate it. Also the length of it being 148 minutes seems much too long and after about 120 minutes you can’t wait to end. On a positive note there are a few moments where you will laugh out loud, but they are spread apart too much to truly call “Inherent Vice” your typical comedy. Personally I wanted to see it because I am a fan of Paul Thomas Anderson’s previous work, but to be perfectly honest with you, my life would have been complete without seeing this one. Decide for yourself, something was missing here and to be honest it is hard to point out what it is. It’s just that the experience was not as immerse full as I was hoping for.

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  • Quickie Review:

    After the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend, Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) takes on the case to find out what really happened. While investigating the disappearance, Doc gets tangled in a web of conspiracies involving many colourful and oddball characters. Paul Thomas Anderson is a highly respected director with many great successes. Inherent Vice, is just not one of them. While the cast is solid in their acting ability, the script is so packed full of content that it makes the entire film incoherent. A disappointing film that could have been so much more if the fat was trimmed off and got right to the meat.

    Full Review:

    When I first saw the trailer for Inherent Vice, I wasn’t sure what the movie was about. However, the style and incredible cast got me excited that this could be something special. Now that I have seen the movie… I am still not too sure what this movie is about.

    The two things that did get me excited for this movie is actually its biggest strengths. Stylistically this is a great looking film. There is a constant motion to the scenes whether it be the actors or even a simple slow zoom. This added a lot to the sense of urgency. Of course the colourful sets and costumes pull you right into the 70’s world. As for the acting, I can’t believe the amount of well-known and talented actors in this film. Sure not all of them have a major part and are relegated to cameos, but these cameos were some of the best parts of the movie. The lead actors Joaquin Phoenix and Josh Brolin had a great rivalry in the film, and watching them clash numerous times led to some good laughter.

    Inherent Vice is probably going to be one of the most divisive movie of the year. You are either going to love it for its complexity, or hate it for… well, for its complexity. I personally fell under the latter group. This is a very dialogue heavy movie, it went for a mix of The Big Lebowski and Pulp Fiction. Those are two great movies where the dialogue is used effectively to tell us more about a character, even if they are just talking about a TV show they like. However, in Inherent Vice the conversations keep meandering to no end without any purpose. It felt like the characters were in a competition to see how many different names they can drop in a conversation to confuse the audience (and I thought following who is who in Game of Thrones was hard). The movie demands your 110% attention, but it doesn’t do anything to deserve it. Even if you give it the attention the pay off at the end is just not worth the effort.

    Unless you are Paul Thomas Anderson fan, I say skip this one. You are not missing out on a masterpiece, and even the fan would agree that this is Anderson’s weakest work. This movie will test your patience and I saw 8 or 9 people out of 35 leave the cinema before the movie ended. And I don’t really blame them for it, I completely understand.

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  • Reading Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 novel before seeing this film really gave me a better understanding of the forces that are in play in the story. That doesn’t mean that Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest undertaking is at all confusing, rather it is a much more streamlined comprehensible adaptation of the novel that cuts through a lot of confusing tangents that are cut straight from a drugged up hippie’s head.

    Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is a private investigator operating out of Gordita Beach in LA. One night, his ex-girlfriend Shasta (Katherine Waterston) appears out of nowhere to tell him of a plot to kidnap her current boyfriend, millionaire real estate developer Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts). Doc is soon drawn into a complex web of conspiracies that involve a supposedly dead saxophone player Coy Harlingen (Owen Wilson), a rough police lieutenant Bigfoot Bjornsen (Josh Brolin) and the mysterious Golden Fang.

    Paul Thomas Anderson is really a master with his camera work and all his usuals come into play. He is not one to shy away from long shots, but the one in this one is different. Normally his long takes rely on big choreographed movements as the camera flows from room to room and follows various characters. In Inherent Vice, he instead has a quite static long take that includes an eight minute monologue from Katherine Waterston that ends a little abruptly. There is one scene that stood out for me in particular that was a dialogue between Doc and a client that is done entirely in low angle close-ups with no establishing shot.

    This film is littered with some great comedic moments, whether this be Doc’s propensity to throw himself around like a rag doll or the fact that Denis (pronounced Dee-nis) can’t drive. Being set in the early 70s, there are a lot of jokes about hippie culture and paranoia. Martin Short’s dentist character Dr Rudy Blatnoyd is great fun for this, as he openly condemns hippies whilst partaking in illicit substances at the same time and getting everybody paranoid in the process.

  • Another movie where the trailer makes you all excited and then you fall into a deep black hole after getting the full 148min. (!) experience.

    First off, the film is slow-moving and boring. Even with an impressive cast (Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro and Martin Short) the performances are lackluster due to poor character development and sleep-inducing dialogue. Not to mention, there are way too many times in the film where the actors are whispering or speaking under the breath. There is absolutely no need for this, and it makes many of the conversations difficult to follow.

    The plot line is also lacking, which adds to the slow pace of the film. You continue to get the impression that the story is weaving a complicated tale of intrigue and suspense, with many interesting characters contributing. Sadly, nothing ever materializes. In fact, some of the characters that you think might pop up later are never seen again, leaving you wondering why they were ever introduced in the first place!

    Overall, this movie was painful to watch. Basically a series of drug induced sequence. It was a total downer and total mess!
    The trailer was 100 times better than the movie. Do yourself a favor and only watch the trailer…

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