There is no doubting that Paul Thomas Anderson is a great filmmaker, but his latest work is not up to his usual standard. Comedy-drama Inherent Vice follows hippie-stoner private investigator Larry ‘Doc’ Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix), as he investigates the plot to commit his ex-girlfriend’s lover Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts) to an asylum, and steal his riches. Along the way, Doc picks up on threads from all over Los Angeles, and its kooky characters.
The movie’s plot gets so convoluted that you forget what the original story was. It plays out like a long drug-induced trip, going from conversation to conversation with increasingly stranger people, adding to Doc’s case, but not revealing anything. If you enjoyed The Big Lebowski, this is similar, but with more dialogue, more drugs, and less action. For such an auteur, Anderson’s direction has such uninspired cinematography, switching back and forth between two characters talking is not interesting to watch.
Script and camera aside, the acting is fantastic. It has such a large ensemble that each person only gets one or two scenes with the main character, but they always shine with their comedic performances. Phoenix is wonderfully insane in his interactions with the cast, especially with detective Big Foot (Josh Brolin). Katherine Waterston’s naked long take conversation is definitely one of the dramatic highlights from it. Props also to the 70’s soundtrack overseen by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. Honestly, the two and a half hours drags so much and gets so complicated that the two and half minute trailer is more enjoyable than the actual movie.
By Connor Harvey
Originally published in Curieux Issue 2, 2015