The trailer for Thomas Paul Anderson’s “Inherent Vice” suggested that the film would be a fast-paced, comedy-heavy period drama in a similar style to “The American Hustle”. The final result is almost quite the opposite.
Set in the fictional town of Gordita Beach during 1970, Inherent Vice is based around Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix), a drug-fuelled Los Angeles detective, who is asked to help foil a kidnap plot by his ex-girlfriend Shasta Fay (Katherine Waterstone). It’s a simple concept, yet a concept that becomes very complicated, very quickly.
From the outset, viewers are bombarded with the vital plot details. It’s a lot to take in. And, by the time you’ve had time to process the information and finished the remains of your popcorn, the narrative has already veered off in multiple directions, meandering its way down new plot lines and introducing a plethora of new characters.
Whilst this won’t be a problem for viewers who are already accustom to the Thomas Pynchon novel on which the film is based off, casual moviegoers will be left confused and perplexed for the duration of the film. Inherent Vice is one of those rare cases in which having that prior knowledge of the film is recommended, as you sit back and watch the events unfold.
The film’s scenes are just about held together by Joaquin Phoenix, who excels in the role of Doc, as he attempts to solve the case through a haze of drugs and impressive sideburns. There are also some strong performances from the supporting ensemble of stars, which includes the likes of Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Eric Roberts and Josh Brolin.
In spite of this, Inherent Vice is a film that has all the right components, though fails to congeal them together. Certain scenes stand out on their own merit although, as an entity, the film falls flat and is extremely difficult to watch due to a lack of motivation.
The plot bumbles between intricate and convoluted plot threads; scenes are crammed with lengthy lines of incoherent dialogue and there’s a distinct lack of structure. Even the laugh out loud moments, which are far and few between, hardly seem worth it. It makes for an extremely uncomfortable viewing which, with a running time of 148 minutes, is a lengthy ordeal.