The Flick Chicks

Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Inherent Vice | Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Katherine Waterston, Owen Wilson, Martin Short, Joanna Newsom, Reese Witherspoon, Maya Rudolph, Hong Chow, Sasha Pieterse, Peter McRobbie | Review

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2sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is BAD Judy Thorburn

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2lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is BAD

 

Inherent Vice

Throughout his career, writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson has made some great, memorable movies such as 2012's The Master, 2007's There Will Be Blood, and 1997's Boogie Nights, just to name a few. So when I heard he was the writer/director of Inherent Vice, I was really looking forward to seeing it.

To say I was disappointed by his film adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's 2009 complex novel is an understatement. I've heard the book was almost impossible to adapt to the big screen and from the looks of it, that is right. Anderson might have thought he had a grasp on the material but he failed to translate it to the big screen in a comprehensible manner, so others could, too. Having not read the source material, all I can say is the story must read better on the pages because the film is a downright mess. Here is proof that even a star studded talented cast, can't save this disjointed script.

Set in 1970 in a southern California coastal town, Joaquin Phoenix plays Larry "Doc" Sportello,  a pot smoking, hippie doctor and private eye with long hair, side burns and mutton chops (a look inspired by a 70's era Neil Young). The story kicks off when Doc's former “old lady” (hippie speak for girlfriend) Shasta Fay (Katherine Waterston), suddenly shows up at his beachside pad asking him to help find her vanished lover, Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts) a married real estate tycoon, whose wife (Selena Scott Thomas) and her boytoy have devised a plot to send him to the looney bin.

From there on, the plot meanders through a convoluted chain of events that feature interactions with a slew of wacky, offbeat characters, such as a black militant, Neo Nazis, Jade (Hong Chau), a foul mouthed Asian lesbian chick that runs a message parlor called Chick Planet, a former junkie with fake teeth named Hope (Jena Malone) whose saxophonist husband, Coy (Owen Wilson) ran off and is working as an FBI snitch, Dr. Rudy Blatnoyd a coke snorting dentist (Martin Short) and a mysterious boat that are part of an Indochina drug cartel called The Golden Fang.

Josh Brolin shows up as flat topped L.A. detective Christian “Bigfoot” Bjornsen, with a penchant for sucking on phallic looking frozen chocolate covered bananas, who also moonlights as a TV actor, but keeps showing up as a thorn in Doc's side. Also appearing in smaller roles are Benecio del Toro as Doc's friend and attorney, Sauncho Smilax, Reese Witherspoon as Penny, Doc's current girlfriend and assistant D.A.,and Anderson's wife, Maya Rudolph as Doc's receptionist, Petunia Leeway. Other characters with silly names are occasional narrator, Sortilège (Joanna Newsom) and Japonica Fenway, (Sasha Pieterse).

As some storylines or threads intersect, others fall by the wayside, and some characters come and go, it is like trying to make heads or tail out of what is going on while being in a drug induced stupor. In other words, it doesn't make much sense, and it is frustrating trying to see through the whirly, psychedelic haze.

By the the way, the title is taken from a maritime insurance policy that states because fragile items break all the time they can't be insured. Huh? What? I am stumped by how that figures into this storyline. Whatever!

At two and a half hours long, this absurd comedy does offer up a few laughs, mostly from Brolin and Short who deliver some off kilter, bizarre behavior.

All in all, Inherent Vice is far from groovy, and that is a bummer. A more applicable title would be Incoherent Vice.

 

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