Inherent goddamn Vice. Huh. Yeah. Okay. Alright. So..... Inherent Vice follows the story of Doc Sportello (Joaquin Pheonix), a private investigator, hippie and full time stoner. One evening, after a mandatory weed session, Doc is visited by his ex-girlfriend, Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston), who tells Doc about her new lover, a married, rich hotel owner named Michael Wolfmann (Eric Roberts) who's now disappeared. Michael's wife, the pompous Sloane (Serena Scott Thomas), apparently came up with a plan to kidnap Michael and throw him in a looney bin, or so Shasta says. Flooded with paranoia and hysteria, she asks Doc to help investigate this and help find Michael, but it's not too long after when Shasta disappears too.
To form a cohesive thought on this movie initially appeared impossible. It's a film with so many sub-plots, red herrings, suspicious characters and chaotic events that by the time we cut to black and the title appears once more, you will feel stoned. That's not to say I've ever taken drugs before, but from what I've studied, and from what the characters in this movie do during certain situations, the feeling is almost the same. It's a nonsensical, never ending ride that's an absolute blast from beginning to end.
For the film's entire two and a half hour runtime, which doesn't nearly feel that long, I was just sitting, watching this movie in utter awe. The film itself is one giant drug trip, both for the characters and for you, and I couldn't name a single scene that didn't put a smile on my face. For the most part, I had no idea what was happening, but I knew that what I was watching was cinematic history. Inherent Vice is bound to go down as a classic in the same way that Magnolia or Boogie Nights did, and for that reason, I feel honoured to have witnessed this film on the big screen.
While the narration is provided by Joanna Newsom, the film tells the story of Doc, who in my opinion is the most intriguing character to be put on screen in many many years. In almost every scene, Doc can be found with a joint in his hands and shoes absent from his feet. He's a hysterical nut job with a tendency to say peace, and an outfit to suit. While he may be insane and his perspective is unreliable, a scene in which Josh Brolin's character Bigfoot talks to him through his TV being the best example of this, he's not out of the times. He gets it. He understands what he's doing, even if he's not always sure how he got there or what he's meant to do next. He's in the now and as an audience member, so are we.
But good ole Doc wouldn't quite be the same without Joaquin Pheonix, who proved to be a much better choice than Robert Downey Jr., who was originally supposed to play the role. Phoenix is at the top of his game with this movie. He understands what film everyone's trying to make here and because of that, he's able to give it his all, his standout moments being his reactions to certain things that happen, the final scene between him and Brolin being the first that comes to mind.
Speaking of Josh Brolin, he's almost unrecognisable here as this hippie hating detective who, ironically enough, plays a hippie in a television commercial early on. Whether that was really him or if it was one of Doc's many hallucinations, who knows. It doesn't really matter when it comes to this movie. Brolin is hilarious as Bigfoot, showing us his true talents as an actor, and also showing us how wrong we've been eating bananas all these years.
To me, Inherent Vice is director Paul Thomas Anderson's best movie. It's his funniest movie yet and it certainly made the biggest impact on me, although to be fair, I am yet to see There Will Be Blood and Hard Eight, but I highly doubt I will enjoy them as much as I did this. It's just such an entertaining movie, thanks to both Anderson and Thomas Pynchon, the author of the book. The screenplay is delightful, providing some of the funniest and well nurtured dialogue to hit our screens in years.
However, what Anderson manages to do even better than write is direct. There are countless shots in this movie that are the definition of gorgeous. The way he effortlessly moves the camera through the scene is something I wish to aspire to. His shots are long, weaving in to the important details. There's not an abundance of angles and cuts, but instead, he takes his time, he shows us everything in great detail and the result is something brilliant.
And before I go, I have one thing to say to all those complaining about this film's lack of plot and messy storytelling. Sorry, but you're wrong. That's not an opinion; that's a fact. Inherent Vice's plot is most certainly there. It may not make its presence too clear, and at first I couldn't quite figure it out either, but don't be fooled. It's there and it's genius. Please, when this film comes out March 12, go watch it. Then go watch it again March 13, and maybe even once more on the 14th. It's an experience you will never forget and it's one I see myself coming back to time and time again.
To sum up, Inherent Vice is a two and a half hour drug trip that, to put it simply, is all sorts of awesome. It's got Joaquin Phoenix and Paul Thomas Anderson at their best, and that alone should be the reason why you need to see this miraculous piece of cinema.