Inherent Vice

LetterboxD review link

I need to see this film about 3 more times before I figure out how to feel about it. But then again, I felt that way about There Will Be Blood and The Master, both of which are squarely near the top of my all-time favorites. However, it is very possible that this movie isn’t meant for the same kind of understanding. I don’t think it has the same meaningful ideas to deliver about its topic.

First impressions: so many details, so many plot points to follow. At times it felt like reading Heidegger while tripping. Which made me realize, maybe this is PTA’s attempt at portraying what the world feels like when your relationship to it (like the protagonist’s) is heavily doped up. Was Joaquin Phoenix on screen literally the whole time? Because his performance was light and silly, does it make it any less of an achievement than Daniel Day Lewis being on screen the whole time in There Will Be Blood?

In the PTA filmography, this felt a lot more like Boogie Nights (not least because it’s around the same era) than The Master or There Will Be Blood. Although Boogie Nights was way more ambitious in trying to capture big ideas about porn/money/industry while Inherent Vice just asks questions (like The Master).

Maybe PTA is moving in a post-modern or historicist direction as he moves forward as a film maker. Inherent Vice felt like a real product of the era is it was set in. Cultural references, lighting choices, the gritty details on each character’s face and body were all spot on. But situating a question in its historical context is not the same as answering that question.

The real failure of post-modernism was that it got really good at asking questions, but never at answering them in any satisfactory way. I hope PTA doesn’t fall prey to that same failure.