Inherent Vice (2014)

R   |    |  Comedy, Crime, Drama


Inherent Vice (2014) Poster

In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles private investigator Larry "Doc" Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.


6.7/10
94,449

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26 January 2015 | Sergeant_Tibbs
8
| Dense, indecipherable, whimsical, but melancholic.
Paul Thomas Anderson has gone from a perfectionist to an imperfectionist. Now he encourages incoherence and spontaneity above controlling every detail for a hyper reality and instead wants to stay closer to a documentary aesthetic. In fact, I'd argue that he's never been more Robert Altman-esque than with Inherent Vice. This is wacky, whimsical and bizarre, but ultimately deeply sad. The plot is dense, near indecipherable and hard to follow. Threads get solved without much celebration and they just lead to a bigger mess of problems. It's still enjoyable thanks to the sleek and smoky atmosphere in the production with the blend of a funkadelic soundtrack and Joanna Newsom's sultry narration. It's easy to sink into even if it isn't your scene. But it's not about sex, drugs and cults. Set in California in 1970, the time and place of Paul Thomas Anderson's birth, it's probably one of his most personal films. It evokes its era with a deep longing for it despite the pain, confusion and chaos, much as Doc longs for his ex- girlfriend.

I assumed Inherent Vice meant that there's always a dark side, but the film explains it that means nothing in this world lasts. Subsequently it becomes irrevocably melancholic despite the humour of the film. The cinematography feeds into this idea as well being shot on grainy film in a way that is arguably dying. Anderson utilises it for the best effect, but its appeal is limited, as he strips down the mise en scene and often puts actors against white walls as if it's a dress rehearsal. Unfortunately Joaquin Phoenix is a disappointment, having impressed greatly in his comeback with The Master and Her. Perhaps he's run out of juice. He tries too hard to balance light and dark and his character isn't believable enough to hold the weight of the film. However, the supporting cast is excellent, especially Josh Brolin and Joanna Newsom even if tracking their character's inner conflicts is a struggle. Inherent Vice is an intentional mess, but one with great ideas at its core if not ones that are articulated as eloquently as Anderson's previous films. A masterpiece roll can't last forever, ironically.

8/10

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