Thursday, November 12, 2015
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.