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Inherent Vice - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Inherent Vice
Directing: C+
Acting: B-
Writing: C
Cinematography: B+
Editing: C+

The few crossover fans of both author Thomas Pynchon's novel and P.T. Anderson's adaptation of Inherent Vice will say that those who aren't fans just don't get it: The movie is true to the spirit of the novel and the author's vision. These people fail to consider two imperative points. First, some stories work far better as novels than as films (and vice versa). Second, a film needs to work on its own merits. I never read this novel so I have only the context of film to consider. And Inherent Vice doesn't work -- a disappointing but perhaps inevitable example of a brilliant director eventually offering a misfire.

Anderson recently said in an interview that if he had made Magnolia today, arguably his masterpiece, he would have cut it significantly for length. What a horrible thing to do to a perfect movie! When a film is firing on all cylinders, length is irrelevant -- even if the length is three hours and eight minutes. Inherent Vice, for its part, is two hours and 28 minutes long, and it would have been no worse had half an hour, maybe even forty-five minutes, had been cut. It's packed with scenes that go on way too long with nothing but tedium occurring.

It's an odd effect for a plot so ridiculously convoluted, to the point that I wouldn't even know where to start saying what it's about. This much is known: "Doc" Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is a stoner P.I. with his own dentist's office. What? Yep. He's trying to figure out who killed a guy who maybe is just disappeared and was seeing an ex Doc still has the hots for. This endeavor is complicated to ridiculous degrees by a countless cast of supporting characters, played by the likes of Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Benicio Del Toro, Martin Short, and plenty more. Even Maya Rudolph shows up as Doc's receptionist. Most significantly, and one of the few things that help keep the viewer awake, Josh Brolin plays a clean-cup cop with contempt for hippies and an abiding love for chocolate covered frozen bananas.

This movie is sort of like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas without the psychedelics and with more pretension. This is a high-minded comedy that's likely to fly largely over your head. They clearly had a good time making it, but were much more concerned with their own fun than with letting the audience in on it. There are some genuinely funny parts, but in a film marketed as a comedy, the laughs are merely sporadic between bafflement and tedium.

At least the film is nice to look at: the reliably great cinematography of P.T. Anderson films is not much waned here. It loses its impact a bit after you lose interest in the story, such as it is. The performances are oddly inconsistent, however. Phoenix is as great as can be expected, as is Brolin. But other scenes feel strangely unrehearsed, particularly one with a tracking shot closing in on Phoenix and Witherspoon sitting on a sidewalk bench.

By the time we reach the end, it finally gets a little exciting, but it's too little too late. There are plenty of people whose patience was already tested by Anderson's other films -- they'll genuinely hate this one. Die-hard Pynchon fans may love it, although there's disagreement even among them. Just about everyone else is just going to leave confused.

oaquin Phoenix is at the center of convolution in INHERENT VICE.

Overall: C+
1 comment or Leave a comment
fatpie42 From: fatpie42 Date: January 11th, 2015 05:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've never understood the appeal of Paul T. Anderson. I've seen "Magnolia", "Boogie Nights" and "There Will Be Blood" and I haven't liked any of them. I don't know that cuts would have made me like "Magnolia" any more, though I think it could have done without the sing-a-long towards the end and the bit where it rains frogs.

I'm not quite sure why you are crediting Paul T. Anderson with the cinematography. His cinematographer on Inherent Vice has worked on a number of other PT Anderson projects, but he has also worked on "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol", "Michael Clayton", "The Town" and "Nightcrawler". He's clearly a very talented cinematographer who needs the right project to work on. (One of the earlier films he worked on was "Return of the Living Dead part II", so clearly he's probably glad to have the opportunity to work with directors like Anderson.)

But yeah, I guess not being a fan of Paul T Anderson, this clearly isn't the one that's going to change my mind. It's been suggested that "The Master" might be worth my while checking out. Would you agree, or do you think that considering my view of Anderson's other works I should probably give it a miss?
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