“She came along the alley and up the back steps the way she always used to. Doc hadn't seen her for over a year. Nobody had.”
Before I get a lot of hate for disliking this film I just want to say that I have a lot of respect for Paul Thomas Anderson as a director and have rated all of his previous films with at least four out of five stars. Inherent Vice was one of my most anticipated films for 2014 because his recent movies have been mesmerizing. The Master and There Will Be Blood are both films that I absolutely love. Inherent Vice unfortunately didn’t work for me and I had a very difficult time keeping up with the movie’s plot. I was unfamiliar with Thomas Pynchon’s recent novel which this film was adapted from, and perhaps the movie works best for audiences who have read it, but I just couldn’t follow what was going on. There are many characters who seem to be mumbling their lines and stoned out of their lives, so at times it was hard to figure out wether we were seeing actual events or simple hallucinations. I also had difficulty understanding a lot of the dialogue and found the pacing extremely slow. I put a lot of effort into trying to understand the plot of the film, but I simply didn’t get it. The comedy didn’t work for me either and at times I felt like I was missing a lot of the jokes everyone else seemed to enjoy. It was one of the rare films that I thought I wasn’t going to be able to finish, because I felt tempted to walk out of the movie. I kept with it out of the respect I have for Anderson’s work, but in all honesty I wasn’t able to engage with the characters.
There are some great performances in Inherent Vice. Joaquin Phoenix is impressive and delivers a solid and believable role as Doc Sportello, a private eye who is constantly getting high. Josh Brolin also delivers as Bigfoot, the tough detective who is always on Doc’s back. Katherine Waterston plays this sort of femme fatale who had been Doc’s girlfriend in the past and needs his help investigating her current lover (Played by Eric Roberts). I don’t want to get into details into the plot because it isn’t really important in Inherent Vice. This isn’t your conventional detective mystery story. The narration is hard to follow and many characters are introduced in the story with no specific purpose other than to invade Doc’s world.
Anderson tends to choose projects that center on the end of an era, and in Inherent Vice it revolves around the end of the psychedelic 60’s. You get this sense of nostalgia towards that era where the hippies dominated the scene. Anderson does a great job at capturing that period very well and he transports us to this time. It is perhaps the greatest thing about this film along with the strong performances, but the lack of a cohesive narrative and its extremely long running time made it very difficult for me to endure. This is the first Anderson film that I have to admit I didn’t enjoy and that I won’t be revisiting any time soon. The story is completely absurd and the humor wasn’t for me. I kind of feel like I’m the odd one out when everyone else is praising the comedy because I simply never got it. It was a very boring and non engaging experience personally, but I still haven’t lost my respect for what Anderson does. I just wasn’t interested in these character and wasn’t able to follow the story (which I think is purposely done this way). I think The Big Lebowski does a much better job of creating a fun experience for the audience with engaging characters without having an important plot.