In 1970’s Los Angeles, pothead and Private Investigator, Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is sucked into a world of corruption and confusion whilst investigating the disappearance of an ex-girlfriend.
I would have to say this isn’t one of Paul Thomas Anderson’s best (perhaps on a par with Hard Eight or The Master) but its definitely still a fantastic film, which goes to show you what an incredible filmmaker he is. The best way to enjoy this movie is to sit back and let it wash over you. Don’t watch this trying to solve the case by looking for answers or attempting to tie loose ends of the narrative together because you will be sorely disappointed. The movie is not intended to be viewed in that fashion. If you treat it as an experience, much like the marijuana induced experience our main character is within, then you should have a blast as it really has almost everything to offer from suspense to comedy to drama. It just happens to unfold in no particular order in a rather raw and unpolished fashion, which in my opinion gives the movie it’s charm.
It’s great to see PTA working with this large ensemble type of film that we’ve seen from the likes of Magnolia and Boogie Nights because not only does he excel at working with a large group of characters and actors but it’s also much more light-hearted than the austere approach we’ve seen in There Will Be Blood or The Master. Not that there’s anything wrong with those films, they just require a certain mood upon viewing, whereas Boogie Nights, Magnolia and now, Inherent Vice has a wonderful accessibility about them.
Everyone in this movie is superb, adding a real charm and exuberance to the colourful nature of their characters. Phoenix proves that he can do comedy just as well as he can drama and I really hope he continues to tickle our funny bones in the future. I have to say I was very impressed with the film debut of Joanna Newsom. I’m a huge fan of her music and I thought she suited the role of Sortilège perfectly. Not sure I can see her performing in films outside of the 60’s or 70’s but I look forward to seeing her again in something (hopefully) similar.
As I mentioned before, if you don’t go into this expecting a traditional ‘private eye’ detective movie but instead an excellently colourful, intriguing, and hypnotic adventure then you’ll love it. It’s one of the films I’m very excited about seeing again and one I will find hard to resist the urge to ‘blaze up to’ much like I did the first time round.
4 Doobies out of 5
by Simon Garganera Price