A film, food, travel & lifestyle blog by Sophie Elizabeth

10 February 2015

Film Review: Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2015) ★★★

Set in the era of hippie backlash and high ambition, private eye Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix), still under the thumb of his ex-girlfriend (Katherine Waterston), investigates the disappearance of her new lover, a millionaire real estate tycoon, caught up in his wife's menacing plot. Having unknowingly stumbled in to the cuckoo's nest, Doc finds himself part of a kooky conspiracy - in a world of drug dealers, hidden identities, neo-nazis and a dentist turned money-laundering organisation named The Golden Fang. 

 Known more predominately for his outstanding direction of There Will Be Blood (2007), The Master (2012) and Boogie Nights (1997), Paul Thomas Anderson has established himself as untouchable - recognised for his well written dramas, witty screenplays and nostalgia-inspired cinematography. Until there was Inherent Vice. Presented in the sex-crazed/drug-fueled 1970s, Anderson brings the Thomas Pynchon novel (of the same name) to the big screen with an all-glowing cast. Visually, Inherent Vice is stunning and nothing less is expected of Anderson. The 70's aesthetic is ever pleasing and, as usual by Anderson, perfectly executed.

The trailer creates the idea of a rare great, a witty narrative - another American Hustle or Big Lebowski (1998), a new 'The Dude' in the form of Doc Sportello. What we get however, is far more complex ten times over. Whilst the noir is ultimately playful with bright sparks of comedic elements and slapstick (getting hit on the head at Chick Planet or their trousers falling down), everything appears to have a bizarre ulterior meaning. The narrative, though actually narrated by Sortilège (Joanne Newsom) as if to guide us through - plucked mostly from the tongue of Pynchon, gets a little lost in translation to the spectator.
As the narrative 'develops' to the point where it nearly stops, we are presented with a wide range of interliked characters along Doc's travels. As he uncovers more of his case, the more we meet wacky missing, hippy saxophone players (Owen Wilson) and learn of Doc's relationship with, bad-ass, Lt. Det. Christian F. "Bigfoot" Bjornsen (Josh Brolin) who seeks to make Doc's life as difficult as possible. These, along with Doc's complicated and poisonous ex girlfriend, the current (far more sensible) girlfriend (Reese Witherspoon), which sees Johnny and June (Walk The Line, 2005) reunited amongst a whole host of dysfunctional characters, making one twisted story.
It could be argued that this unconventional building block is to mirror that of Doc's wild mind - often the case of his excessive weed-smoking habits but if this is the case, it's not conveyed too successfully. Unfortunately for us as an audience, little of these characters are truly developed to the point where we root for them, even Doc. If his mission was more clear to us then we could feel more empathy or at least care what he finds...but we're never fully sure of what it even is.
In the case of Inherent Vice, ignorance is bliss. The less you try to understand Anderson's ramblings, the better. Despite a slow narrative build, it did insure a few chuckles and overall the film is enjoyable if you can relax enough. Bigfoot's character really makes the film as one of Anderson's best characters to date. The trailer made promises it could not deliver and this is strike one for Anderson who failed to maintain his impeccable reputation until this point. Though a little disappointing, as a hugely anticipated film of 2015, but still sure to scoop up a golden statue for it's screenplay, Inherent Vice regrettably gets a Sophie star rating of 3 out 5 stars.

Please go see it but perhaps don't go with such high hopes, as I did. I so wanted to love this film but instead, I just liked it. My boyfriend, on the other hand, is a bit annoyed I dragged him to go see it. Perhaps it's one of those that is better on the second try...

Another Oscar film down, just one or two left to see now. I have seen so many that I can't keep up with the reviews! More to come soon before the big day! What did you make of Inherent Vice? What Oscar films have you seen so far? 

Until next time movie lovers, 



  1. I'm sad you didnt enjoy the film as much as you hoped! I want to go see this because it reminds me of American Hustle, but I guess it's not like that alot all! Maybe it's the 70's theme?


    1. It definitely has that kind of vibe! the 70s theme is pretty awesome and Anderson does it so well! I'd still recommend you see it though :) xx

  2. I couldn't agree more with you. It looked so promising in the trailer but was not what I expected. I still found it very funny and still love Anderson however. Excellent review and writing style.

    1. Thanks very much, definitely such a shame because I love the director but it wasn't a bad film, just a little disappointing. Thanks for reading! x

  3. I've been going through your old film reviews since you said today was your 200th post. Excellent review of Inherent Vice, Sophie. Have you read the books at all? I found that the second time round made it much better viewing

    Ashley x

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