Inherent Vice (2014): In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles detective Larry "Doc" Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.
So. Uh....I just watched this movie and I only have one question: what? What the hell did I just watch? Look. I get that Paul Thomas Anderson's movie can be....out there. And don't get me wrong: I usually have bought into whatever he's selling. In my opinion There Will be Blood is one of the better movies of the 2000s. Magnolia and The Master are also great, but here's what they have that this movie does not have: throughout those movies its building to something. Here, we have 148 minutes of essentially nothing where every scene introduces someone new that you're just expected to know as you are introduced to several different cases all at once that you're just expected to follow while Joaquin Phoenix is running around to these locations that you're just expected to know and....ugh. Man while Inherent Vice is exceptional from a technical standpoint, never have I found 148 minutes of film to be as mentally exhausting and unenjoyable in 2014 as Inherent Vice. And it pains me to say that because I freaking love PT Anderson.
Ok. So. What to talk about....well, the acting is good. Joaquin Phoenix is up to his usual crazy tricks here as the lead. While it was nice to see the good ol' crazy Phoenix back in action, I did kind of miss the grounded and incredibly human Phoenix of Her here. The supporting cast is also excellent. I'll leave most of the performances for you to discover on your own cause I do need to talk about other things, however I will say Josh Brolin was AWESOME. This is easily the best performance I've seen from him in a loooooong time. The movie was also exceptional from a technical standpoint, as I said before. Actually, it is one of the best movies I've seen all year in this regard. Anderson makes the brilliant decision to have this movie be set in 1970, so you have a great homage to the era of the hippies while simultaneously being introduced to the me decade that was the 70s. You hear people saying groovy and right on and referencing Charles Manson all while Phoenix's character has long hair and is wearing Lennon-style sunglasses. The movie also shines from an editing and cinematography standpoint. The French New Wave of the 1960s I personally am studying in one of my classes (some of you would probably love the movies that came out of that era) is gushing throughout this movie with its clipped editing and crazy choices of camera angles. Were it not for this, I probably would've given up on the movie halfway through it. Ya. The story is that unenjoyable.
I think this movie goes to show that you can have a technical marvel, but if you don't have a good story it means very little. This story made absolutely no sense. It absolutely is the kind of movie you need to be high as a kite to understand while you're watching it, cause if you don't.....you're gonna sit there completely lost asking yourself who is that and what do they have to do with anything etc, etc, etc. It's a shame too cause the trailer for this movie was far and away the best trailer of 2014, but I can now officially say that not just the best parts were in the trailer, just about the only good parts of the movie were in it. Oh well. Can I also say that I hated this movie's portrayal of women? Every single woman in this film is objectified to no end, culminating in an incredibly uncomfortable sex scene that, like the rest of the movie, made no sense to me. To me, it honestly felt like a sex scene just cause, you know, nudity! Woot woot tits! That's what America loves right? While I highly doubt this is the reason that this scene is in this movie, it sure as hell felt like it. (I'm sure someone will remind me that PT Anderson is above this sort of thing, cause he absolutely is so this is not even remotely the reason why this sex scene exists-I'm just saying it was a very awkward scene fo sho.) But even other than that, every girl is groped or wears an incredibly short skirt or other revealing clothing in this movie at some point and it was honestly quite frustrating to me to see that. But that's just me. Another thing: this movie makes horrible use of its location. Which is weird, because I've seen plenty of occasions where PT Anderson has made great use of his film's location, but here the city felt pretty lifeless. And, especially after watching a movie like Nightcrawler where they made LA into a character in the story, I would expect more geographically speaking from a PT Anderson movie in 2014. Ultimately, Inherent Vice to me feels like a movie that PT Anderson threw together so he could have an excuse to make another movie. Because, you know, money. And while a lot of care went into producing the movie, that same care was not put into writing it. Go watch There Will Be Blood again for your PT Anderson fix, guys. You'll thank me later.
The Critique: A wildly mixed bag of...things. While technically impressive, Inherent Vice is a train wreck in terms of story.
The Recommendation: There is one way that this movie might be enjoyable. But I couldn't possibly recommend smoking pot and watching this, could I? Otherwise your time is absolutely better spent elsewhere.
The Verdict: 3.5/10 Pretty Bad.
Oscar Talk: Don't expect to hear Inherent Vice's name called on Oscar night. 'Nuff said.
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