Inherent Vice is the latest film from director Paul Thomas Anderson, the creator of amazing films Punch- Drunk Love, Boogie Nights and Magnolia. This movie is a foray into comedy-drama set in the colourful landscape of the 1970s.
With a star- studded cast including Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Reece Witherspoon, Benicio del Toro and Martin Short just to name a few it is not short on some of Hollywoods heavy weight actors.
The story begins with Shasta Fay Hepworth ( Katherine Waterson) showing up at the beach house of her Ex-boyfriend Larry “Doc” Sportello ( Joaquin Phoenix) a private investigator/ psychiatrist and all out pot head to tell him about her new lover, Mickey Wolfman ( Eric Roberts). It seems Mickey’s wife ( Serena Scott Thomas) has hatched a plan to have the wealthy real estate developer abducted and committed to an insane asylum.
What ensues is 2.5 hours of plot and sub-plot that is just confusing. There are stories running over the top of the main story, adding to the confusion and mayhem and there is not any point in the film where the viewer knows what is going on exactly. As Doc Sportello rolls from one scenario to the next the story just becomes more and more convoluted. Sometimes not even Doc Sportello knows what is going on and blunders about in a haze.
What there is however is some brilliant acting. Joaquin Phoenix spends the entire movie in a kind of confused/ stoned state, wandering from dilemma to dilemma with a charm that is very well played. At times he is funny, scruffy and just a little loveable. He creates humour that may or may not be intended, but works.
Whilst Paul Thomas Anderson has created some amazing films in the past ( Punch- Drunk Love is brilliant) this film is too confusing to be overly successful. Whilst the acting is brilliant ( apart from a strange appearance by Martin Short as a dentist) and the cinematography is exceptional the plot and sub- plots leave the viewer scratching their head. Set to a fantastic soundtrack the costuming is authentic and spot-on. The only way it can be enjoyed is to sit back and not make any attempt to understand it.