- RatedM18 /GenreComedy, Crime, Drama
Paul Thomas Anderson tackles the ‘70s again with his latest film, an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 novel. However, those looking for the same energy and bravado that Anderson gave to 'Boogie Nights' are going to be disappointed, as 'Inherent Vice' has little of either.
Joaquin Phoenix is LA private detective Larry "Doc" Sportello, who sports mutton chops and spends most of his time getting high.
He gets a visit from ex-squeeze Shasta (Katherine Waterston), who is now entwined with property developer, Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts).
Larry soon plunges into Los Angeles' underbelly in his search for the both of them, while trying not to get into too much trouble with the law, particularly with Bigfoot Bjornsen (Josh Brolin), a jaded but ethical cop.
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Larry’s search constantly sputters, but there is always a clue dangled in front of him by yet another eccentric character.
There never seems to be a sense of danger for him, and Anderson wheels us from one near-absurd encounter to another. The characters that Pynchon wrote for his novel are just momentary flashes on the screen, never quite assuming the substance that they have in the book.
With the exception of Brolin’s chocolate-banana-chomping cop, the spiritual opposite Larry, the characters are a group of information dumps with quirks.
Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix in 'Inherent Vice' | Photo: Warner Bros
There are a few comic moments, but they are never quite funny or surreal enough to capture the viewer’s attention. The pace really slackens in the third act, after Larry makes a major breakthrough with the case.
'Inherent Vice' is a rather tedious exercise, with a central character that is interesting but not enough on which to hang a 180-minute movie. Phoenix plays Larry as a drug-taking investigator whose reality is warped, and the audience constantly questions whether he is really experiencing what we see on screen.
Bigfoot, a man who has to play within his boundaries and who finds little reward in his work, is far more interesting than Larry. When Bigfoot finally loses his cool, it’s a joy to watch.
The general tone of the movie is downbeat and dreamy, and it never really takes off. It’s not helped by the fragmented narrative, though when one leaves the cinema there is no great urge to put the puzzle pieces together.
Perhaps Anderson is trying too hard to be faithful to the novel here, trying not to offend the famously reclusive Pynchon. Those who found Anderson’s latest works, such as 'The Master', lackadaisical should do well to steer clear of 'Inherent Vice'.
'Inherent Vice' opens 29 January 2015