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Inherent Vice: A Fantastic Crime Story That is Dazed and Confused

April 21, 2015

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Inherent Vice can be appreciated as a breezy experience or studied as a work of art. The book adaptation lives and breathes on the screen in a way only Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master, Punch Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood) can create. I love that Anderson is the first person to adapt a Thomas Pynchon novel and you can see he is having fun with the material. IV plays like Big Lebowski met Chinatown and spawned a hybrid variation that is still very much Anderson.

Inherent Vice starts like any other noir/crime story. A beautiful woman named Shasta (Katherine Waterson) comes back into the life of our detective hero and he is sent into the shady underground of 1970s Los Angeles. From there it twists and turns like other crime stories but stands out because of Anderson’s direction and Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Larry “Doc” Sportello. I love that our hero is an incredibly stoned yet capable man. He navigates the seedy world as the straight man and he is put through the wringer. He is shaggy, doped up and has sideburns a guy nicknamed “sideburns” would be jealous of. His laid back demeanor actually works for him because who would ever think a little stoned hippy would be any trouble?

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As he works his way through corrupt cops, dirty dentists, drug addicts, angry children and weird cults it all becomes wonderfully muddled. I know a lot of people were confused by the film but I rolled with it. I loved watching Doc react to the world around him. When a massively side burned Joaquin Phoenix is the straight man in your film you know you are doing something right. Phoenix’s laid back charm allows Josh Brolin, Jena Malone and Benecio Del Toro to thrive. They are my favorite supporting characters amongst the many supporting characters. As always Anderson finds a way to makes characters three-dimensional in one scene. The initial description of Josh Brolin’s character Christian F. “Bigfoot” Bjornsen tells you everything you need to know about the guy.

Well Mornin’ Sam, like a bad luck planet in today’s horoscope, here’s the old hippie-hating mad dog himself in the flesh: Lieutenant Detective Christian F. “Bigfoot” Bjornsen. SAG member, John Wayne walk, flat top of Flintstone proportions and that evil, little shit-twinkle in his eye that says Civil Rights Violations.

Inherent Vice feels alive and that is rare nowadays. Anderson lets the train roll off the tracks and films the aftermath. Many of today’s films feel managed (think Marvel) or familiar (Sequels, prequels, remakes). I know Anderson is adopting a book but he is adapting a bonkers book. I watch so many films that instantly leave my brain when the final credits roll. Today, I found myself thinking about IV and laughing as I ran through the crazy moments. The performances are so strong and the world is so vivid I can still see most of the frames in my head. I want to watch it again in order to catch-all the sight gags I missed.

Inherent Vice is a fantastic film that will live long in my memory. If you watch it remember to sit back, relax and embrace the absurdity and humor.

 

 

 

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 21, 2015 3:49 pm

    It didn’t always make sense. But then again, I don’t know if I needed it to. It still worked for me as was. Nice review.

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