Tom Basham

Inherent Vice

In This Just OUT on January 17, 2015 at 9:05 pm

Inherent-V-POSTERInherent Vice is “the tendency in physical objects to deteriorate because of the fundamental instability of the components”; so now you don’t have to look it up like I did. This may be theme of the movie as it exploits all the other vices.

Doc (Joaquin Phoenix from “Her“) is a little hard to explain, but it’s 1971, so you might as well know that going in. People come to him for help, for drugs and because he’s a private investigator. When his old flame Shasta (Katherine Waterston from “You Must Be Joking“) shows up and asks for his help, he mumbles something and she leaves him with his tongue hanging out.

Doc begins sticking his nose in places it doesn’t belong, like a cross between The Dude and Jim Rockford. It was almost a buddy picture with the sordid relationship between Doc and Lt. “Bigfoot” Bjornsen (Josh Brolin from “Oldboy”). The whole thing felt very derivative to me, but maybe that’s because I lived through the ‘70s.

I am a fan of Director/Writer Paul Thomas Anderson (“The Master”) and his eclectic style and depressing brand of historical drama. Here, he is tied to the novel by Thomas Pynchon, which I am guessing is just as confusing as the movie. I was thinking this was his shot at film noir, but there were no women doing anything significant here. They are all objects to be objectified while they have no objective of their own. Sure it was the ‘70s, but that is no excuse.

Phoenix does an amazing job with a complex character and makes it look easy. We totally buy him as a worthless hippie, though he is the only character on the screen that has any principles or guts enough to do the right thing. He is surrounded by talented actors whose characters are much stranger than he comes off.

Sure, the movie meanders and the plot is never clear and every 10 minutes a new character is introduced who is way too weird or convenient. All the while, our hippie hero keeps lumbering forward against forces that will never let him win. It’s a good thing winning is not his objective.

This movie is not everyone’s toke of Tupelo Gold, but I found it to be entertaining and enjoyable since I didn’t know what was going to happen or why. I just let the movie “flow over me,” as William Hurt said in “The Big Chill,” and it was cool. For that I must give it 4 stars out of 5. This movie might be just what you are looking for if you don’t know what that is.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker. Here is a link to his movie review site:


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