Inherent Vice (2014)

I got to attend a screening of Inherent Vice thanks to Cloture Club this past Wednesday. (It had a limited release late last year and will have a wider release today.)

I didn’t know too much about the movie going into it. I’d only just started seeing some trailers and commercials, and they didn’t tell me much about the actual story. (Much like how I felt about the Interstellar promotions.) (ALSO I’m going to talk about Interstellar soon. If I don’t, bug me about it.) The initial impression I got from this was a very American Hustle-esque vibe of nostalgia for an older time with some investigative hijinks? Also, check out that cast list, it is not to be trifled with. We have an awards-season gunner here.

Going into the movie, I suspected it wouldn’t be my cup of tea. I mean, here’s the description I was given before the screening:

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… Part surf noir, part psychedelic romp – all Thomas Pynchon. 

Are you confused? I sure was.

And to be honest, I was still confused coming out of the movie. One thing I will say off the bat is that Paul Thomas Anderson did a really wonderful job of transporting us back to that late 60s/early 70s time in American life. It’s not only the obvious costuming and set design, but the camera work and the editing. Lots of tight angles, a nostalgic grainyness… if you had not seen a movie in the last 40 years, this movie would seem very familiar stylistically to you. In one of the opening shots, we see Katherine Waterson, who plays Shasta Fey, looking so incredibly mod and the stylizing of the shot makes her look even more authentically mod.

This still is brighter and clearer than this scene was in the film.

Joaquin Phoenix delivers a great performance, as usual. He is also rocking some really incredible sideburns.

Them muttonchops put Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine to shame.

Also, for fans of Walk the Line, we see Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon reunited.

This morning… with her… having coffee…

Before I attempt to talk about the plot (which I really barely understood…), I’ll just go over some thoughts:

  • Do not see this movie with your family unless your family has a special bond that allows you to see a movie with a lot of nudity, sex, and excessive use of the phrase “pu**y eater”. (I mean it.)
  • There is also a lot of drug use in this movie. It’s important to the plot and the themes of the film, but not important enough to warrant how much it’s mentioned or shown in the film.
  • The movie is narrated by Sortilège, a chracter who is in the film as one of Doc’s friends but otherwise… serves no real on-screen purpose? Unless I’m missing something? I don’t know why there was a need for her to be this on-screen character who is a friend to Doc for about 5 minutes total of the film. She was a good narrator, don’t get me wrong, but having her be an on-screen character confused me a bit. I think it was meant to make her seem like part of the story, but she was maybe the only character who had just nothing to do with any of the interwoven storylines.
  • Owen Wilson always plays Owen Wilson. I would like to see him challenge himself as an actor to not play Owen Wilson.

Also, you will get certain cravings in this movie:

  • Pizza
  • Fudgesicle (which actually turns out to be a frozen chocolate-covered banana)
  • Frozen chocolate-covered banana
  • Pancakes

All in all, this movie wasn’t really for me. At all. I would compare it to Burn After Reading. If you liked that, you’ll likely enjoy this. It has a similarly nonsensical, all-over-the-place plot, and even a similar theme of paranoia. Not my cup of tea, as I said before.

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That being said, there were a few shining moments for me. Some very random moments that were just really funny, very randomly emotional moments. It wasn’t a complete waste on me, but I just walked out of the theater not sure how everything started, ended, or what was really going on in between. It felt like just as the weirdness had plateaued, something else crazy would happen. Again, I am sure this was intentional but it’s not something I personally enjoy in movies.

This trailer actually includes most of my favorite moments from the movie:

So………… where do we even start.

The only storyline that seems very truly resolved is Coy Harlingen being returned to his family. Everything else in between feels very iffy as to whether anything is really closed or fixed. Probably intentional but I can’t stand that.

Josh Brolin’s character, “Bigfoot” was easily one of the best characters in the movie. He was so absurd in every way, and I think at the end he is shown to be a little smarter than we really give him credit for during the whole movie. My friend and I laughed particularly hard at the scene where is shouting in nonsensical “Japanese”, especially because my friend is half-Japanese. His character just seems so hell-bent on being ridiculous and not caring how ridiculous he is.

The whole story gets really confusing though. I just felt like I wasn’t on enough drugs to watch this movie the whole time I was watching. Is it supposed to make sense? I left pretty frustrated.

Did like that the Asians didn’t have accents. Didn’t love that Jade ran a brothel that she participated in but she made for an interesting character, at the end of the day.

Just…. I don’t know. These aren’t really spoilers. I just don’t know what else to say at this point. I’m much more into story-driven movies with a more linear story. Call me vanilla, that’s how I am.

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