Thursday, November 12, 2015

Inherent Vice

Inherent Vice; crime / comedy, USA, 2014; D: Paul Thomas Anderson, S: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Katherine Waterston, Benicio del Toro, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Jena Malone, Maya Rudolph, Jeannie Berlin, Michelle Sinclair, Martin Short, Martin Donovan

In the 70s, Californian private detective and hippie Larry "Doc" Sportello hears about a secret plan to put a rich real-estate developer, Wolfmann, in a mental asylum, from his ex-girlfriend Shasta. When she and Wolfmann disappear, he decides to investigate the matter, stumbling into a crazy world which includes Coy, a police informant who feigns to have died; a drug smuggling cartel called "golden fangs"; dentists; Detective Bjornsen "Bigfoot" as well as Puck, a man with a swastika on his skin. When Puck and Adrian kidnap him, Doc kills them and uses their drug to negotiate a release of Coy from a secret cult. Shasta returns and Doc rides with her.

"The Big Lebowski" meets "The Big Sleep" - Paul Thomas Anderson bravely decided to adapt the bizarre comic crime novel "Inherent Vice", but did not manage to make any sense out of it. While the story starts as a typical 'private eye' film, it soon goes deep, way too deep into the obscure - until ultimately it just turns into one giant assembly line with dozens of star cameos who do not contribute to anything in the plot. Author Thomas Pynchon made a critical mistake: one can over-complicate a plot and add too many characters - but only if it all amounts to a conclusive resolution of a mystery in the end. Pynchon, however, never really intended to assemble a puzzle, but just to either confuse or do something unorthodox in the 'whodunit' genre. This is further exacerbated by a strained sense for a comic timing. Still, Joaquin Phoenix is great as the confused 'hippie' hero; Anderson gave an impressive and refreshing casting (including comedians Martin Short and Owen Wilson) whereas "Inherent Vice" has some of wonderful lines and quotes in recent cinema, which are a small delight ("It's not what you think..." - "Thinking comes later."; "My tits aren't big. But it's the thought that counts."; when Sauncho orders a dish at a diner, the waitress says: "OK. It's your stomach."; while visiting a mental asylum, Doc says: "I don't normally visit the south side of the city", upon which the doctor cannot resist but to ask: "...And abnormally...?"). Outlandish, episodic and without a conclusion, but with a rather clever depiction of the 70s era.


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