Friday, January 9, 2015

[Review] Inherent Vice

Paul Thomas Anderson's perplexing last film, The Master, provoked plenty of indifference outside of its superb performances. Now, PTA returns with Inherent Vice, a trippy neon noir (yes, neon). It's another divisive one, due to its incoherent plotting and deliberate confusion. However, even if you don't know exactly what's going on, it's consistently entertaining, funny, and nice to look at.

Late 70s LA. Amidst the oversaturated colors and grainy realm, we meet Doc--a hippy private eye.
He engages in a series of entangling cases involving a murder extortion plot and a bunch of other stuff. Now I'm gonna be fully honest--I got lost. And I'm probably not the only one. And it's probably supposed to be that way. The good thing is that it isn't confounding in that floaty impressionistic sort of way, it's more-so that the events collide and curve in ways that are difficult to make sense of.

That said, I was enthralled with what I could grasp onto. It's visually interesting, as PTA has always been skillful at curating vivid shots. The eccentric and stylized performances (Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro) are all pretty groovy. Some of the hilarity comes from the weird and random things the characters do, along with the off-the-wall stuff that comes out of their mouths. PTA has created one of those unique cinematic experiences populated with strange situations and people, and it manages manages to be more enduring than off-putting. There's also some fun soundtrack moments throughout the duration.

Consider Inherent Vice as the odd, rejected stoner and surfy cousin of 2013's American Hustle. Instead of being twisty yet mostly cohesive, the understanding of the plot is less essential and more essentially head-scratching. It's something that should be maddening, but all I could do was smirk.


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