This gloriously shambolic, rambling psychedelic mess of a movie brilliantly captures a slice of 1970’s beach-bum life, mixing it with all the black paranoia of hard-boiled noir. Only an extremely ambitious auteur (or an idiot) would attempt to translate Thomas Pynchon’s loosely lucid perspectives in film form. Paul Thomas Anderson deserves credit for even having a stab at it.
The result is a delight, a film full of true-to-life observations and social commentary, and even some fairly substantial insights into human relationships. The first half-hour bubbles over with delicious vignettes that inspired snorts of sniggering (apologies to anyone sitting near me: it’s rare that I find anything so funny that I can’t contain myself but the plethora of pitch-perfect throwaway one-liners almost did for me).
It would take an extremely determined viewer to make sense of all the tangled plot lines and unravel the whole confused mess of an investigation – but that’s the whole point. This isn’t a film which is intended to be entirely understood. It’s a film you’re meant to experience, just like the time / philosophical period it represents. Don’t sweat the details, just grok the fullness…
And while you’re at it, revel in the wonderful performance by Joachim Phoenix (apparently channelling Wolverine’s facial hair). He totally nails the character of the smart-ass stoner, the deliberate drop-out; the so-called loser who somehow keeps coming out on top. Likewise, huge plaudits for Josh Brolin as the seemingly straight police detective who, in keeping with the times, is just as mucked-up as the next man. Owen Wilson was possibly born for his role and played it to perfection.
This is definitely not a film for the easily-appalled. It features non-stop drug use, steamy sexuality, violence and all kinds of quirky language. The soundtrack is a stunner, too.
Inherent Vice also succeeds in transferring the essence of an era and a lifestyle onto the screen, and doing it with considerable style. Far more successful than the Rum Diaries a couple of years back, although not a movie for people who need certainty, clarity or straight-talking.