Thursday, January 8, 2015

Quick Review - Inherent Vice

I honestly didn't feel that inspired to write about this one, but since Paul Thomas Anderson is one of America's foremost auteur voices, I figured he at least deserved a separate post for his latest film Inherent Vice, rather than lump it in with the capsule reviews.

Suffice it to say that I land firmly on the thumbs-down side of this divisive L.A. noir as seen through a pair of aviator shades and a haze of pot smoke. It comes off more as an empty stylistic exercise than a trippy work of art to me.
Joaquin Phoenix stars as 'Doc', a perpetually baked hippie P.I. investigating the disappearance of a housing mogul and his ex-girlfriend. That's about as much of the plot as I can summarize, because after that things become impossible to follow.

Every new place Doc visits and every new face he meets reveals some piece of information that basically leads nowhere, and is swiftly forgotten when he encounters his next circumstance. The bigger picture of the mystery he's unraveling never materializes for us, or for him, and this is no accident.

Anderson's narrative progression is incoherent by design, in an attempt to evoke the burned-out fogginess that follows our central character around like a bad hangover. His mise en scene is its own kind of drug; DP Robert Elswitt's visuals make interesting juxtapositions with warm and cool colours, accompanied by beguiling musical choices on the soundtrack.

I'm sure PTA knows what he's doing, but I sure as hell don't. In his past works he's employed that hypnotic style to higher artistic ends than he does in Inherent Vice. The only purpose I can see for it is to confuse us as much as Doc. We understand no more about the character or his story by the conclusion (which takes waaaay to long to reach, by the way).
There are those who say that to truly appreciate the film, you have to get high as a kite and then let it all just wash over you...


That's a real smoky excuse for a nonsensical film. Any piece of art that requires you to absorb substances in order to 'get it', isn't worth getting. What does it say about the filmmaking if you can only enjoy it with mind-altering chemicals?

If you happen to groove to this sort of thing and all its insane bewilderments, then more power to you. But I can only echo the sentiment of Martin Short's hopped-up dentist character from the film: “It's not groovy to be insane.”

** out of ****


  1. Maybe we should call this film "Incoherent Vice" from now on.


  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I do understand your reasoning, but I have to disagree. I really did think this was one of the year's best. Check out my review, for a second opinion, here.