Paul Thomas Anderson’s film Inherent Vice (based on the book of the same title by Thomas Pynchon), is as much of a mouthful as the definition of the term itself; a hidden defect in goods and property which of itself is the cause of its own deterioration and damage. It’s like a ‘sloppy joe’ made by the greatest Parisian chef; messy, discombobulated, but with an exceptional flavour and depth that draws you helplessly back for more. It is a film drenched in irony and tension, every character experiences a sort of internal decay, and is either in a state of repenting or a self-destructive haze (sometimes both).
The plot centers around Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix), a private investigator and frequent rider of the “ganja bus”, who is attempting to solve three cases. The first is an alleged plot to lock up local real-estate mogul Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts) in an insane asylum so his wife (Serena Scott Thomas) and “spiritual guide” can take his money. The second case involves finding a member of the Aryan Brotherhood (Christopher Allen Nelson) who owes a member of the Black Guerilla Family money. The third case revolves around finding an ex-heroin addicts husband (Owen Wilson). All three sub-mysteries take many twists and turns, but the main plot appears to be Doc’s search for his ex-girlfriend Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston), who is Wolfman’s mistress.
The thinnest description of the plot I could give took up an entire paragraph which indicates that this movie is slightly hard to follow. Inherent Vice is so entrenched in its own themes and motifs that sometimes plot seems put aside wayside in favour of dialogue and interaction steeped in the numb, dopey haze that was so prevalent in the years following that 70’s ‘summer of love’. What sits at the center of this spider-web is corruption on a global scale, and the attempt to unmask the ‘inherent vice’ that exists within American culture and the understand the dream that accompanies it. While an artistic triumph, I am confident that after multiple viewings plot-holes would be revealed too large to ignore. But this movie is as experiential as it is thought-provoking, it expects you to sit back and simply enjoy the ride without questioning and thats alright because its better that way.
With great performances by a star-studded cast, including one of Josh Brolin’s finest on-screen personas to date, this movie will make you nervous, ecstatic and pensive; sometimes all at once. And if there’s anything the public likes, as gossip magazines have shown us, its a hot mess. Another reason to see this movie is so that one can marvel at the politics of Hollywood that allowed one of the top three films of this year to be nearly completely snubbed at the 2015 Oscars with only two nominations. Surprisingly for costume design and adapted screenplay although it could have been included in the now expanded ‘Best Picture’ category which has only 8 nominees but can have 10. Stars Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Eric Roberts, Serena Scott Thomas, Christopher Allen Nelson, Owen Wilson, Joanna Newsom, Benicio Del Toro, Reese Witherspoon and Martin Short. Rated R for drug use throughout, sexual content, graphic nudity, language and some violence
Check out our interview with Paul Thomas Anderson on the making of The Master