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  • Inherent Vice | Review

    By | January 9, 2015

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    Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

    Writers: Paul Thomas Anderson (Screenplay), Thomas Pynchon (Novel)

    Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Joanna Newsom, Katherine Waterston, Eric Roberts, Serena Scott Thomas, Maya Rudolph, Martin Dew, Michael Kenneth Williams, Hong Chau, Shannon Collis, Christopher Allen Nelson, Benicio Del Toro, Jena Malone, Owen Wilson, Vivienne Khaledi, Yvette Yates, Andrew Simpson, Reese Witherspoon, Sam Jaeger, Timothy Simons, Jack Kelly, Jillian Bell, Christian Williams, Elaine Tan, Martin Short, Sasha Pieterse, Katie Schwartz, Charley Morgan, Keith Jardine, Delaina Mitchell, Peter McRobbie, Martin Donovan

    Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice seems to inherit its form from an early 1970s jazz piece, riffing with the utmost fluidity on one motif or phrase, then seamlessly bouncing to the next; some sections more discordant than the next, often teetering on the verge of being far too “out there” for most audiences. Sure, the narrative rambles and stumbles…coherence is certainly not the point; rather, drug-addled incoherence is the colloquial key to the oh-so-puzzling plot. Meaning is rendered nearly insignificant; Inherent Vice relishes solely in its inherently languid mood and tone, where stoned and lucid peacefully coexist. Whereas The Master — or There Will Be Blood, for that matter — is quite conventional, if not classical, Inherent Vice becomes a radical companion; flagrantly dipping its tanned Los Angelean toes into many of the rash “-isms” of the world (post-modernism, post-structuralism, post-lapsarianism, situationism, surrealism, existentialism). In a strange and polemically/politically distorted way, Inherent Vice echoes the rally cry of the May 1968 student revolution in Paris: Sous les pavés, la plage! (Under the cobblestones, the beach!) Can you dig it? Yeah, probably not…

    Based within the fictional environs of Gordita Beach, private detective Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) exists in a time and place of perplexing juxtapositions: squares commingle with hippies, Blacks and Jews find themselves sharing unexpected commonalities with the Aryan Brotherhood, and the government is in bed with…well…just about everybody and anybody. The refrain of The Kinks’ “Where Have All the Good Times Gone?” seems to be reverberating/rattling inside Doc’s head. Doc is a disconnected and lost fossil in this ever-changing world. He is a good, idealistic — albeit shaggy-haired — hero trapped in a shady time that borders upon revolution; all the while, police brutality has escalated to the point of an Orwellian police state. Abiding in a Dude-like state of mellow grooviness, a disorienting fog (sometimes figurative, other times literal) suggests that Doc might as well be smoking resin, the residue of the recent notions of the Pacific past. Bygones (bygone eras, that is) have thus begat bygones. Fervently riffing on hippie jive, stoned and lucidity have suddenly become one in the same. Doc is stuck in an endless groove of coincidences, everything and everyone seems to be interrelated. A web of interconnected-yet-unacceptable risks, Inherent Vice becomes the definition of itself. “Eggs break, chocolate melts, glass shatters,” in other words, shit happens. That, my friends, is inherent vice — a maritime term for cargo that is utterly uninsurable due to the likelihood that something bad might happen to it. Call it fate, call it bad luck; regardless, hearts break, people disappear, heck, people sometimes even die… That is the world in which Doc finds himself, a world in which shit happens and there is no insurance to provide protection. The dude does not abide, and neither does Doc…

    Rating: 9/10

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