Film Review: Inherent Vice

It’s been a long time since I misjudged a film as badly as I did with Inherent Vice. I was expecting almost screwball comedy, a parody of the private investigator and instead I got a complete mess. A film which made so little sense whilst watching that the longer it went on the more confused I became, and even now, reminiscing, I still have no idea about how it all adds together.

The worse part though is the fact that Inherent Vice lost me in the opening few minutes. It starts how it ends, refusing to be concise and clear. The dialogue in this films destroys everything around it in such a way that it constantly felt like I was being pummelled around the head. Being forced to dictate three words when one would do and in a language designed for no other purpose than being obtusely difficult.

Paul Thomas Anderson - Inherent Vice

Inherent Vice is directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and this isn’t the first time I have come away from one of his films completely befuddled and wondering what it was actually about or how I was meant to extract enjoyment from it. I had the same reaction to Punch-Drunk Love and The Master, but I don’t remember my loathing confusion towards them being anything like this strong. Granted, they left me bored and puzzled, but Inherent Vice added detached to that list as well.

The narrative has a depth to it that really does feel like you are on drugs, in a world that makes no sense and in which nothing is explained or rational and it is made even worse by the fact that the film goes on and on, and on and on. Because it is so wordy it so beyond slow, even beyond static. It just keeps going, never pausing for breath, never changing pace, never coming to life. It’s two-hours-twenty-eight minutes long and uses everything single one to talk to you through a muted monotony. It’s the cinematic equivalent of being spoken to while day dreaming and then having to try and figure out what was said. It’s impossible and it’s not worth attempting. Your mind is just unable to focus on this much confusion for this long without imploding.

Joaquin Phoenix - Inherent Vice

I feel completely cheated though, the trailer made out that Inherent Vice would be humorous and fun but it’s not. There are a few attempts at visual gags and characters come and go with jovial personalities that are meant to mix dead-pan with sarcasm to create laughs but nothing works and even worse, it gets so lost and so bogged down with the amount of speech that surround everything that every joke falls flat and when it relies more on the visual rather than oral elements of it’s comedy it fluffs the context instead.

Inherent Vice is just a two-and-a-half hour onslaught of confusing nothingness that you deserve credit if you can get through with your sanity left in tack.

While the tone and story implied by the trailer maybe a falsification of the film, it was the cast, as much as anything, that attracted me to the film. I have always been a fan of Joaquin Phoenix (although his performance in Her is far, far better) and he truly is centre stage of this. He’s in every scene. In fact, he is every scene and the film’s basically the world orbiting around him. Stick him stationary the centre of every shot and then use the characters around him to confuse, sorry tell, the story. The problem is after one-hundred and forty-eight minutes it’s all just too much. He’s just too much. It’s like being forced to eat the same meal, breakfast lunch and dinner, for a month. You just end up longing for anything else.

Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon & Benicio Del Toro - Inherent Vice

But that should never have been a problem because the rest of the cast should provide that break. But instead of adding to the film they are really nothing more than fleeting cameos. Coming and going without explanation. In terms of the plot I know who Josh Brolin (a policeman), Reese Witherspoon (a district attorney), Owen Wilson (a saxophone player) and Benicio Del Toro (a lawyer) are but I have no idea how they actually tie together, how they combine to make a story, or anything really about them. You never see into the whites of their eyes. I never feel a connection to them. They are just people in a spaced out parody.

Inherent Vice is close to being the worse film I have seen in a very long time. Every other film I’ve hated recently: And Uneasy Lies The Mind, The Bling Ring, Monsters: Dark Continent all have individual elements that made me dislike them, where as this just took it all to a new level, there is simply nothing of note in the entire film. No one single ray of light. It’s simply was two hours thrown away on a film that never makes sense, trudges along as you become more and more distant from it, hating every moment, and instead of looking at my watch, I actually spent large parts of the film just not caring about anything other than trying to justify in my head why on earth I was still watching it. And giving less and less time to even bother to attempt to work out what was going on.

If you want to be bored watch paint dry, or if for some bizarre reason you want to watch a bad film rent On The Road. Either will do nothing to make you life better but I promise you they will pass the time more productively than watching Inherent Vice. In confused me in the opening seconds and lost me in the opening minutes and then didn’t have the decency to put me out of my misery with any speed.

3 out of 10 stars (3 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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