Inherent Vice (****)
Running time: 127 min
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston and Reese Witherspoon
[Movie House Dublin Road Press Screening 28/01/2015]
REVIEWING any Paul Thomas Anderson film is a difficult task, it’s not that they’re bad, it’s just that they’re so difficult to describe. There’s simply so much going on within any Anderson film that being able to write coherently about the plot, character etc. just isn’t an easy task and Inherent Vice is no exception.
Based on the novel by Thomas Pynchon, the first time any of his work has been adapted for the big-screen, Inherent Vice focuses on the permanently stoned private-detective Larry ‘Doc’ Sportello, played by Joaquin Phoenix. Everything starts off simply enough with Doc investigating a missing person case brought to him by his ex-girlfriend Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterstone), but as the story unfolds the drama begins to take on multiple layers and viewers are introduced to an array of outlandish characters.
Anderson gets so many great performances from his stellar cast, Phoenix is fantastic in the film’s central role, his character switching from moments of striking clarity to marijuana induced fuzzy logic; but it’s Josh Brolin’s straight laced cop, nicknamed Bigfoot, who almost steals the show.
Reese Witherspoon and Benicio Del Toro also make memorable cameo performances, but be careful because it’s perfectly possible that viewers could easily blink and miss them. I’m still not convinced all the characters in this film are real; some appear so randomly that it hints they may be nothing more than a figment of Doc’s drug-fuelled imagination.
The film dabbles with many issues throughout its runtime, including the changing LA drug-scene, triggered by the arrival of heroine. There’s also heavy references to the shifting political landscape within America and the demise of hippy culture.
The rambling nature of this review in some ways tells you all you need to know about this film. It might frustrate and alienate some viewers, it may take a few viewings for everything to fall into place; but I’d definitely recommend giving it a go. It’s a much more accessible feature than some of Anderson’s previous films, but it still retains a lot of the director’s trademark touches and might leave some viewers with the munchies for more.
Review by Neil Sedgewick