As you’re probably already aware, Inherent Vice is the hotly anticipated new film from Paul Thomas Anderson. His Magnolia is one a small handful of films I can directly attribute my love of cinema to. I remember being completely obsessed and besotted with it. Hoy on the heels of the success of Boogie Nights, PTA rapidly became one of the most exciting young American directors. In more recent times, he’s achieved great acclaim and Oscar success with The Master and There Will Be Blood. The arrival of a new PTA film is an event. Unfortunately, Inherent Vice may be many things, but a great piece of cinema it is not.
When Doc’s (Joaquin Phoenix) ex-girlfriend Shasta (Katherine Waterston) comes to him with a desperate plea for help, what’s a hippy private investigator to do? There’s a plot to kidnap her big-shot real estate developer boyfriend, Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts). Probably by his wife and her lover. Doc is a slightly bewildered by her plight, but then again an impressive drug habit isn’t a great recipe for coherent thought. Detective Christian F. “Bigfoot” Bjornsen (Josh Brolin) doesn’t like hippies or dope heads. He especially doesn’t like Doc. When Mickey and Shasta go missing, Doc and Bigfoot set about finding them in their own unique ways. Throw white supremacists, “dead” musicians, Broadway show-loving dentists and The Golden Fang into the mix, and pepper liberally with dope.
Inherent Vice is an adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel of the same name. Like the author’s work, PTA’s film is incoherent, confusing and jumbled. It’s a hefty two and a half hours long, and given the complexities of the book, you’d expect it to fly by. However, I found myself looking at my watch frequently as the the mumbled dialogue transferred into a dope-infused incomprehensible mess. There’s also some dubious lashing of sexism mixed in with often puerile humour. On the plus side, there are great cameos from Joanna Newsom, Martin Sheen, Benicio del Toro and Owen Wilson. Every scene is intricately crafted, adorned in bright colours and set to a great soundtrack. In the end, it amounts to little. Whilst reading Inherent Vice affords you the time to bend your brain round it, watching PTA’s film will leave you reeling through the drug addled fug of this bad acid trip.
Inherent Vice is out in cinemas now.