Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Katherine Waterston, Owen Wilson, Martin Short, Reese Witherspoon, Eric Roberts
Based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Pynchon (the first of his novels to receive the film treatment), Inherent Vice is perhaps a return to heavily-involved form of Paul Thomas Anderson's earlier projects, like Magnolia. Stylistically reverent to the time period in which it is set, the film may not make much sense, despite being a fun and entertaining ride.
It's the 1970's and Larry "Doc" Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is a Los Angeles detective hot on the trail of finding out information surrounding his missing ex-girlfriend. Doc is steeped in drugs and his hippy lifestyle distracts from his work relationships and his personal relationships. There's the loud and abrasive Lt. Det. "Bigfoot" Bjornsen (Josh Brolin), the elusive masseuse who specializes in happy endings Jade (Hong Chau), his current love affair Deputy D.A. Penny (Reese Witherspoon), and a handful of off-color side characters. Doc's demeanor is off-the-cuff and the colorful language of the time and Pynchon's writing is superbly scattered and edgy. As time ticks on, Doc is led from one location to the other in a true exploration of intrigue and mystery culminating with a brash fight to the finish.
In true Anderson fashion, the film's aesthetics are what sells every moment. The added joy is that, on top of the insightful cinematography, the performances turned in by Phoenix and the supporting cast are just as erratic as the screenplay. Speaking of the screenplay, Anderson adapts Pynchon's novel with such ease that every moment seems to ooze perfection. The dialogue bounces from one extreme to the other, and is even naturally inaudible at times, but feels so realistic that the events surrounding them don't even have to make sense. Inherent Vice does contain a plot, but the scarcity of needing to follow normal plotlines keeps the film moving, but also keeps some of the content from being coherent. While this would normally work to the disadvantage of a film, an Anderson piece uses this as a storytelling technique. Even when you can't follow what's going on, you're still enthralled by what you're seeing and enamored by the performances you're experiencing. This also leads to the need for multiple viewings. It's an art form, to say the least.
Anderson has a knack for creating fully realized worlds in interesting ways. Every film, while following similar styles, gives way to memorable moments. Inherent Vice does not lack this same emotive power. It is a modern film masterpiece that may not resonate right away, but will undoubtedly live on in film history.
Explicit in its flair, Inherent Vice is a fun ride that you will remember, despite the visual hangover you may experience when you wake up.
Since I didn't get a chance to see this movie before creating my list of the best films of 2014, I will be adding it as an amendment to the list, since it is definitely worthy of being included as one of 2014's best films.
Runtime: 148 minutes