Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Stoner's Noir: Inherent Vice

"What's Up Doc"


In 1970, drug fueled Los Angeles detective Larry "Doc" Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend


Inherent Vice is the newest feature film from Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master, There Will Be Blood) that is based on Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 novel of the same name.

The film takes place in a fictional beach town in 1970 California, this very complex, layer, noir follows Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) who is a private detective, who on one night gets a visit from his ex lover Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston) she explains to him about where she has been and mostly who she has been with, a wealthy real estate developer Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts). she goes into detail about Mickey’s wife and her boyfriend are plotting to get him committed to an insane asylum and asked for her help, but she wants no part of it and wants Doc to stop it from happening.

Now I went into Inherent Vice blindly with no knowledge of the book or Thomas Pynchon and his works, I kind of wish I didn’t do that because even though the film is very well directed, has a star studded cast, a cool soundtrack there seems to be something or a few things lost about this movie.

Inherent Vice at first glance seems to be a redo of The Big Lebowski and I can see where most people could think that to be the case but where that film is fun and has somewhat of a straight forward narration, Inherent Vice seems to gets itself lose in translation of weather it wants to be a quirky comedy or a dramatic film noir which is where my issues with the film come into play.

There are some good performances here most notable being Joaquin Phoenix as Doc who has to be the most clueless private detective of all time except for one scene near the end which shows what he could be like if he wasn’t high 95% of the time.

Owen Wilson is a surprisingly good as Coy Harlingen a sax player who finds himself caught up in everything that’s going on, the scenes between him and Phoenix are some of the best to me atleast, there is a running theme through out about his character that I thought was interesting and the Last Supper shot really drives it him too.

Katherine Waterston as Shasta Fey the femme fatale seemed to be in an another film altogether with her performance which is not a bad thing, I myself not really knowing who she is and having to look her up on IMDB realized I’d seen her in a few other movies but this was the first movie she finally stood out in for me.

Josh Brolin as tough cop “Bigfoot” Bjornsen has a way of playing the a straight lace character and be really funny all at the same time, the back and forth between him and Phoenix characters are funny and strange all at the same time.

The rest of the star studded cast does good jobs in their roles even if alot of them aren’t fully introduced but I was surprised to see Martin Short show up in a strange but oddly funny sequence of the film and it showed him in a whole new light.

I would’ve liked to have seen more from Eric Roberts, Michael K. Williams, Reese Witherspoon, Benerico Del Toro, Maya Rudolph and Michelle Sinclair(she is better known by her other name look her up) all of their characters and performances seemed to garner more screen time then they actually got makes me wonder how much was left out of the movie because their roles are basically glorified cameos.

The movie like I said before is very complex which hurts it for anyone who didn’t read the book first and the run time drags things down as well, there are more then a lot of scenes that go on far to long which may or may not take you out the film a few of them did take me out the film I must admit.

Paul Thomas Anderson who has made lengthy movies in the past, actually think all of his movies are over two hours long. here he seems to make his first misstep with letting scenes go on far two long and letting stuff happen on camera that never really goes anywhere.

This is the first time in a long time that I watched a movie that I was thrilled about seeing but kind of wish I hadn’t seen atleast not on the big screen, I’m not really sure if I dislike the movie or if it just hasn’t clicked with me yet after a first viewing just like There Will Be Blood and The Master did with me, so maybe on a second viewing knowing what exactly I’ll be getting maybe my view point will change but until then I’m on the fence about it.

It does has potential to reach cult status in the future because there are some good things in the film but right now the negatives for me outweight the good things right now, maybe when released on Blu Ray/DVD there is a extended version that gives it more cohesion.


Joaquin Phoenix- Larry "Doc" Sportello
Josh Brolin- "Bigfoot" Bjornsen
Katherine Waterston- Shasta Fay Hepworth
Owen Wilson- Coy Harlingen
Reese Witherspoon- D.A. Penny Kimball
Benicio Del Toro- Sauncho Smilax. Esq
Michael K. Williams- Tariq Khalil
Joanna Newsom- Sortilege
Martin Short- Dr. Rudy Blaynoyd
Michelle Sinclair-Clancy Charlock
Maya Rudolph-Petunia Leeway

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