Something to Watch: “Inherent Vice”

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It’s probably best for me to state my overall opinion of Inherent Vice upfront: I don’t know what to make of this one. It’s got a great visual style, a charmingly incoherent plot and some great performances. But then… Well, I’ll get to that.

The story of this film adaptation of the acclaimed novel concerns a stoner private investigator named Larry “Doc” Sportello (played by Joaquin Phoenix). Doc is asked by his ex-girlfriend (Katherine Waterston) to look into the disappearance of her boyfriend. What follows is an intentionally disjointed journey, as Doc stumbles into a series of bizarre predicaments and strange coincidences that all have virtually nothing to do with each other.

The movie does a great job of staying true to the 1970’s, the decade in which the story takes place. The soundtrack is littered with licensed music from the era and all of the costumes and set designs feel authentic. The film itself is fed through a grainy filter that subtly and expertly maintains the illusion that your local theater hasn’t gone digital yet.

The film plays out like a hazy memory of a crazy drunken night out. Surreal scenes fade in and out leaving you simultaneously entertained and confused. Phoenix’s disconnected portrayal of Doc also helps with the audience’s sense of confusion.

So what’s my problem with this film? Well, it all boils down to one flaw: the movie is way too long for the material it has, stretching to two-and-a-half hours. In addition to becoming an endurance test for my bladder (by the by, I’d reconsider buying a drink from the concession stand), everything that I found entertaining or charming about this film became very tiresome about an hour before the end credits arrived. The plot never really comes together in any coherent or satisfying way, completely removing any reason for me to care about any of the characters as they reach any semblance of resolution.

Regardless, if you can find your way past that flaw, there’s a lot to like about this movie. At the very least, I’d recommend it for the sole reason that it’s interesting. Go see it if you’re looking for something a little more off-beat and unique.

You can find out more about Inherent Vice at it’s official site.

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