Inherent Vice follows the perpetually stoned and unlikely private investigator Larry "Doc" Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) as his long time ex-girlfriend Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston) turns up on the doorstep of his mellow beachfront house begging him to help investigate her new lover, Michael Z. Wolfmann's (Eric Roberts) disappearance. Shasta suspects that his wife Sloane Wolfmann (Serena Scott Thomas) and her lover have had Mickey committed to an insane asylum, but that's only the tip of the iceberg. Along Doc's investigation he comes across a slew of colorful characters and seemingly unconnected cases and motivations that may not be as unconnected as they first appeared.
What follows can only be described as a labyrinthine like odyssey into what oddly reminded me of one highly intricate episode of Scooby Doo for some reason. Doc finds himself falling down the rabbit hole of wacky characters, bizarre organizations and outre conspiracies that threaten to overwhelm and confuse the mellowed out private investigator to no end. Inherent Vice is the latest movie from the enigmatic and challenging director Paul Thomas Anderson and with that in mind, Inherent Vice only manages to reinforce this often frustrating, yet strangely engaging and mesmerizing style of his.
Inherent Vice is a hard movie to define or describe, much more so than his previous movies. It's not really a comedy, it's not a suspenseful thriller, it's not a noir, it's not a crime, it's not even really a drama, it just... is. The plot is irritatingly hazy and nothing is easily discernible or coherent in Inherent Vice. Either Paul Thomas Anderson really likes to challenge his audience, or he just likes fucking with 'em.
Although Paul Thomas Anderson does manage to create a strangely charming tone and atmosphere with Inherent Vice, one I found that inexplicably sticks with you. Paul Thomas Anderson recently said that "I never remember the plots of movies. I remember how they make me feel." and I suppose in that sense, Inherent Vice is what he set out to make. Inherent Vice is an experience, not necessarily a cohesive story. So if you like clarity or closure in your movies, then Inherent Vice will probably leave you disappointed and perplexed. The story is there, in parts, but it's all buried under so many other subplots and distractions that it can be hard to discern what it is exactly.
As we meander through the rather confusing plot of Inherent Vice, we meet many weird and wacky characters along the way who are all played by an impressive ensemble cast, but there's no real depth to any of them, and they're all so fleeting in its narrative that only a couple of them are memorable in any way. Joaquin Phoenix carries Inherent Vice almost exclusively and he never ceases to amaze me as an actor. Joaquin disappears so completely into the character of the bewildered hippie private investigator so thoroughly. I was amazed at his characterization of Larry "Doc" Sportello. Inherent Vice is a bizarre and surreal experience to be sure, but I still found it to be an ultimately unsatisfying one that only ever managed to be bordering more on the tedious side than it was on the compelling or on the intriguing side. Inherent Vice is definitely a strange and wild beast that may just warrant a repeated viewing, or two, to fully appreciate all the intricacies of it. I'm not sure.
Written by - The Sentry - 10/01/2015