IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 148 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
In 1970 Los Angeles, private investigator and dope head Larry “Doc” Sportello is visited by ex-girlfriend Shasta Fay Hepworth who wants him to help prevent a plot by her new boyfriend Mickey’s wife and her lover to have Mickey abducted and committed to an insane asylum. On returning to his office, Doc is enlisted by black guerrilla Tariq Kahlil to find Aryan Brotherhood member Glen Charlock, who owes him money. And soon after that, Doc takes on a third case, a search for a supposedly dead husband who may actually still be alive….
A film by Paul Thomas Anderson is almost always interesting and worthy of respect even if the result isn’t always that enjoyable. Sadly though, his latest work, which he wrote while he also scripted the infinitely superior The Master, seems initially interesting but becomes a bit of a chore, at least to this critic. Reviews of it do seem to generally be good though it seems audiences are very divided. Inherent Vice sees the filmmaker kicking back and relaxing, though in the end it becomes too soporific for its own good. It reminded me a bit of The Long Goodbye, though unlike that great movie I don’t think I’ll be returning to Inherent Vice several times after I first viewed it, even to try to work out some of the labyrinthine plot. Some very good films have stories which are partly or nearly incomprehensible, and it doesn’t matter because there’s so much else to them or they are so much fun, but Inherent Vice doesn’t seem to bother in making viewers care about the proceedings or about its array of characters, and, though there may indeed be more than meets the eye, aside from a sense of the ‘end of the ‘6o’s’ downfall of the counter-culture movement a la Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, and a vague feeling that some of what we see may be hallucinations, I didn’t take much away from the film at all. Another occasion where I’m at odds with the majority of critics I suppose.
The comedy seems mostly half-hearted and there are only a few sections where it feels like Anderson had a coherent version. Joaquin Phoenix superbly disappears into another great character as the constantly stoned hero who pretty much bumbles his way through the story, and there’s tremendous support from performers as diverse as Owen Wilson, Benicio del Toro and Martin Short. Josh Brolin has some of the film’s best scenes as a detective who is a sort of mirror image of Pheonix’s character. The combination of Johnny Greenwood’s ‘of the time’, but still dramatically astute, score and well chosen songs results in a great soundtrack which I will probably be buying, though Robery Elswit’s cinematography ranges from striking to just dull. In fact, the handling is often oddly unimaginative and even un-stylish throughout. At two and a half hours, Inherent Vice is only fitfully entertaining. I guess that’s probably not the case if you’re high when you watch it, but you could probably say that about most things.