Monday, February 2, 2015

Film Review: Inherent Vice (2014)

Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures
When it comes to reclusive literary geniuses from the US with inkling for deconstruction of worlds where their characters reside, Thomas Pynchon and Cormac McCarthy could be the ideal contenders (I’m not counting J. D. Salinger in here mainly because he doesn’t fit in my main idea, so I will ignore him). In recent years, McCarthy got two phenomenal adaptations that made a huge blessed dent in the hull of the modern cinematography, even its mainstream aspect.

First one is The Road, which is the less known sibling of the pair, while No Country for Old Men already became a modern masterpiece (and it totally deserved this, at least in my view). Hopefully, the Blood Meridian (one of the finest fiction books that came out in the second part of the 20th century from the US) will also become a movie, and this too has the capacity to make something extraordinary.

Pynchon, on the other hand, is not known for the same things. His novel from 2009 called Inherent Vice became a film thanks to the involvement of Paul Thomas Anderson. This film, like the novel, tells a tale of a doper private investigator by the nickname of Doc, who is hired by his ex-girlfriend to find out what, happened to her new lover, a wealthy land developer. Set in the 1970, it features Joaquin Phoenix as the Larry "Doc" Sportello and a lot of elements from the late 60’s and the West Coast, where the hippie wave just got broken on the jagged rocks, as Hunter Thompson would put it. This takes Doc on a very trippy adventure filled with paranoia and a lot of Owen Wilson.

Anderson is without a doubt a brilliant director. His visual approach is full of melancholy and simply feels as if it came from a bygone era, but his narrative is still very contemporary. Also, the man has the right kind of magic needed to produce the best results from his acting cast, and Inherent Vice movie is no different. While everyone sees Phoenix as a brilliant actor, Anderson once again showed the same is true for many other people. Here, I primarily mean Michael Kenneth Williams, Katherine Waterston and especially the completely incredible Josh Brolin. In one of his moments, Brolin performance is enough to make the whole film worthwhile.

But, is the rest of the film worthwhile in equal measure? It’s hard for me to gauge this idea. On one hand, I enjoyed it, but more as a series of weird snippets full of great actors. There is a general lack of focus in the film, which mixes in a strange way with the subversive notions provided by the unique workings of the Pynchon mind. It is also completely free of any self-serving seriousness about itself. Like the thriller Big Bad Wolves (although devoid of much of the violence this Israeli film has), it goes where it wants it to be and doesn't mind if others drop out from this journey.

Here, I’m sure that Anderson remained true to the original material, but at the same time, including the omnipresent narrator in the entire film shows that he was also a bit taken back by this juggernaut of hippie, paranoid plot. And there is nothing wrong with being at least a little intimidated by Thomas Pynchon, especially if we count the fact that Inherent Vice never becomes dull or loses pace.

While it might not have the tightest plot or the ideal composition, Inherent Vice 2014 is as an original film as they come at this level of budget and AAA production. Once again, Paul Thomas Anderson can be seen as an imaginative hero of his generation.