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It's 1970 and the swinging sixties are history, however the groovy chicks, cool cats and the whole sixties scene is still very much in existence. The drug fuelled paranoia, fear of Manson like cults, race tensions, flower power and the Vietnam war situation makes for a uncomfortable and potentially explosive start to a new decade. Amongst all this eccentric Private Eye Doc Sportello takes on a snoop job for his ex girlfriend that turns out to be more complicated than expected.
Oh how the mighty have fallen. It's hard to actually believe that this dumpster fire film was made by the same man who made Magnolia and There will be Blood. Following on from the abysmal failure that was The Master in 2014 I was hoping that Inherent Vice (IV) would be a return to some sort of form for a film maker who has more than proven himself in the past. Well I was very disappointed by this almost incomprehensible mumbled and confusing jumble of a film.
Perhaps aiming at a film noiresque mixture with the fun of The Big Lebowski and the intrigue of Chinatown kind of vibe, you can tell almost from the first scene that the writer has failed quite miserably to adapt Thomas Pynchon's novel into a successful film that the average viewer could understand or even appreciate. This material could have been adapted into a great comedy/drama or a strait forward, if complicated period mystery/thriller. However the writer decided on neither and the result is rather difficult to define at all. Mumbled or often whispered supposedly cool dialogue from the off is “complimented” by an almost constant background narration that I suppose was there to explain the plot but did nothing for me and I never really knew what was going on. I watched and listened because I knew I needed to but it made no difference and as a result it was all pretty incomprehensible. Characters came and went, places changed, people talked a lot about all sorts of things and scenes went on forever for no apparent reason, but it really never felt like any real attempt was actually made to entertain and keep the viewer up to speed as to what was happening and why.
The only saving graces for this film is that it looks good, the art direction is first class and you do really feel that early 70's vibe shine through, the muted and slightly under light photography is a nice touch and the direction does occasionally show some style, although at times there was a definite Wes Anderson feel to some of the static rather colourful squarely framed shots. The film does have a quirky kind of free flowing slow style, but I the main I think it's style over any real substance.
It is however the superb acting on show from Phoenix, Brolin and a small but delicious cameo by Martin Short that makes IV just about watchable. Phoenix is a fine actor and does have a certain hypnotic effect even though he seems not to be acting much of the time. He is extremely watchable in the same way as De Nero and Al Pacino used to be and he does a Stirling job of almost giving us The Big Lebowski 2. However were Bridges made TBL a little odd, strangely relatable and quite likeable, Phoenix can't quite inject enough interest into Sportello for anyone to really care. Then again it's not his fault really he didn't have the Coen Brothers write the part for him.
At one minute short of two and half hours it's far far too long. All those mind numbingly dull shots of Phoenix picking his feet, rolling up joints, talking on the phone and generally doing something close to nothing could and should have ended up on the cutting room floor. With a pace close to glacial the director should have let his editor at least attempt to inject some urgency into proceedings to stop the audience from falling asleep. I've given Paul Thomas Anderson enough passes of late and it's now really quite possible that he got “lucky” with Magnolia and There will be Blood. How on earth do you take a novel by Thomas Pynchon and then put Joaquin Phoenix in it and make such a dull film experience.
Some times film makers get a reputation (almost always unwarranted) as some kind of a genius based on perhaps as few as a couple of films. PTA seems to be one of them and has been unable to replicate the magic that was Magnolia and There will be Blood in any of his subsequent films. His serious fans seem unable to recognise that perhaps his early promise and reputation as an “auteur” film maker is unfounded.
Being a big fan of Paul Thomas Anderson's quirky and creative directorial style, this film certainly didn't disappoint. A brilliant cast give their all, which includes Josh Brolin, Katherine Waterston, Martin Short, Owen Wilson and headed by Joaquin Phoenix who's on absolutely first-class form. Full of odd-ball characters and cheeky humour, I would have awarded 5 stars had the dialogue not been a little confusing at times. But perhaps another viewing or two might sort this out. I love this film!
Brilliant and hilarious with a fantastic script, based on Thomas Pinchon's classic novel. Just don't expect coherent plotting - Doc and his narrator are *very* stoned throughout, so they're hardly reliable when it comes to relating events accurately...
This is an interesting film. My girlfriend hated it, said she couldn't follow the plot, and I must admit there are some twists ad turns, but the confusion is deliberate - it all creates a sense of the main character's stoned outlook. Have watched it twice and will view again.
Reminds me a bit of the Big Lebowski in humour and style. Lots of jokes on potheads and paranoia, set in 60's California Anderson weaves a brilliant conspiracy plot based on Pynchon's (popular with American Studies students and teachers) novel.
Definitely worth watching despite a relatively luke-warm reception by critics, Paul Thomas Anderson has produced another beauty like an onion - with layers of humour, with a cast who know what they are doing.
I loved it but you have to love art house films or at least embrace it. I am a film buff and read about films so if you are then get this to your collection. Joaquin phoenix and Paul Thomas Anderson are the best at what they do.