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Inherent Vice scrutinized

Views 72 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 1 - 30 - 2015 | By: Alexis Jean Moore

Drugs. Drinking. Corruption. Conspiracy. These are only a few of the many evils highlighted in Paul Thomas Anderson’s newest motion picture.

Adapted from Thomas Pynchon’s novel of the same name, “Inherent Vice” tells the story of a private investigator and hippie named Larry “Doc” Sportello who gets wrapped up in a plot to take down a wealthy real estate developer, thereby uncovering a foreign drug smuggling ring. It’s the ‘70s. Guns, Nazis, Asian drug cartels, Ouija boards and Joaquin Phoenix’s enormous sideburns are involved.

However, in a cinematic world of vice, what makes this movie different than any other about conspiracy or smuggling? Well, not too much. Despite some bright cinematography, a few well-chosen actors, Phoenix’s stylist and the melodic narration voiced by renowned harpist Joanna Newsom, there are a few major faults.

For those who go to the movies to be intellectually stimulated, this is not your movie. Likewise, for those who watch movies for pure entertainment, it’s hard to say what you’ll get out of it.

“Inherent Vice” kept me entertained from start to finish. Not once did I find myself thinking, “When will this thing be over?” Yet, by the end of it, I had the opposite reaction: “Was that all?” There was a serious lack of character development, and the film lacked a moral life lesson or resolution.

Even for those who indulge in conspiracy movies for the joy of seeing pure action and intrigue, “Inherent Vice” fell short on that level, too. A total of one 30-second action scene left little feeling of threat or risk, a problem when you have a movie filled with powerful businessmen, corrupted policemen and drug cartels. Instead, every other interaction felt like a casual meet-up between Doc and a new drugged-out character with a quirky name and whose one-scene presence just conflated the already confusing plot more. It felt like I was watching “Alice in Wonderland” instead of a movie directed by the man who orchestrated the violent scenes in “There Will Be Blood.”

A few of actors did a stand-out job, including Phoenix as a charming Doc, Josh Brolin as an obsessed police officer and Owen Wilson as a lovable man trying to get out of the cartel. However, other actors are out of place. Reese Witherspoon’s doe-eyed performance as Doc’s lover and lawyer feels all too serious for an otherwise raunchy movie. Her character, along with many other small parts in the film, probably could have been cut or combined in the transition from book to film.

Overall, “Inherent Vice” is a well-done movie. Costumes, lighting, and soundtrack fit very well together. It is ultimately the overly complex plot and characters that leave me frustrated with an otherwise amusing and aesthetically pleasing movie. A revisit might be worth it, if only to gawk at those impressive sideburns once more.


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