Inherent Vice (2014) – The Art of Confused

I first read the synopsis of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice” and thought IMDb didn’t understand anything about this film. I think they don’t know what they were actually writing about. Turns out, I’m the one as well. But, if you have a real challenge, you can do this. You have to explain to me what’s this movie about. I watched it twice but totally didn’t understand what this film was. This is neither “Boogie Nights“, “Magnolia” nor “There Will Be Blood”. Instead, this is a weed movie, a stoned movie for a stoner.

Imagine where this movie is like heroin or any drugs you want to say. This is a psychedelic movie, a chaotic, jumping from one fragment to another without any gap. Finally, this film becomes episodic without flowing in one direction of river flow yet separating, uniting, and separating again. This movie is marijuana and cocaine, as if feeling disoriented, confused, dazed, high, but you want more. You just don’t want to quite it and as a result, chaos forms, an unstructured story, and I think, Anderson was on high when he wrote and directed this film.

Watching this film doesn’t require hard thinking. You have to watch it like watching a movie, without thinking hard about the plot and other elements, it would be better if you turn your brain off. The movie was set in 1970 in Los Angeles County. At the time, hippie culture was surging. The movie starts with Katherine Waterston as Shasta and Joaquin Phoenix as Larry “Doc” Sportello reuniting as ex-lovers. But, I don’t know if this is real or not.

Doc is a hippie as well as a private investigator. Shasta’s arrival was to ask Doc for help to hinder the efforts of Serena Scott Thomas as Sloane. In this mission, he told Doc to kidnap and put his husband, Eric Roberts as Mickey Wolfmann, in a mental hospital. Mickey is Shasta’s new lover, but this case is actually not about fighting or cheating. Instead, we don’t really think it’s not that complicated.

On the other hand, Doc gets a client. First, Michael K. Williams as Tariq, a Black Guerrilla Family member, looks for a man named Christopher Allen Nelson as Glen Charlock, an Aryan Brotherhood member. According to Tariq, he owed him money but had disappeared for a reason. Second, Jena Malone as Hope realized that her husband, Owen Wilson as Coy, was still alive after being declared dead. In this case, these problems filled Doc’s mind to investigate from one case to another, nothing was solved.

This is neither “an unrelated character with interconnected stories” nor any non-linear movie. There is an element that can distinguish it. First, the more you watch this film, you don’t get any point. Instead, you only smoke weed. Second, this is a movie where you don’t need to speak or interpret at all. So, what are the real points? Paul Thomas Anderson likes to throw random things either about other items or about people. In this case, the audience is difficult in combining all the “chaos” occurs in this film.

This movie is incoherent but in good ways, chaotic in unique ways, and bad but in different contexts. Paul Thomas Anderson always shows new plots, new questions, new answers, a voice-over from out of nowhere, Jonny Greenwood’s ridiculous score from out of nowhere, and etc. Dialogue arbitrarily uses so many literacies, even though I think all the actors also didn’t understand what exactly they are talking about. Complicated? Yes. But, there is something about this movie more than anything I can say. And that’s just the beautifulness of this movie at the same time and I feel like I don’t know my own existence or my soul has come out into my body.

“Inherent Vice” is so essential especially in characterizing Joaquin Phoenix’s Doc. Doc is just like us, didn’t really need to change but there is one thing stuck in his mind: his ex-girlfriend. At the same time, Doc has many complicated cases; seem to have no way out before, surprisingly, they are related. The antagonist, Josh Brolin as Bigfoot, a member of LAPD, is actually not the antagonist because we really understand him from another perspective. Doc was very dominant but other supporting characters joined in a series of multiple plots.

Inherent vice means a broken tendency in physical objects, resulting in instability of components in arranging an object. However, all happened not from external factors. Each character has a dilemma, and conflict, accompanying each character’s life, but difficult if not derived from themselves. Unlike in “The Master”, Phoenix transformed as a hippie with many personalities. I didn’t know he was mentally ill because his own life was also so random. There is a structural element but it’s quite the opposite of Josh Brolin. We understand how this character works because there is every action in every of the plot.

This is a beautiful movie in every aspect, in addition to characterization, especially cinematography. Besides a witty dialogue and goofy humor, the movie has a lot of grayish elements both in character and visual. Besides being really hard to root for in this situation, we wonder how we are here? The momentous photography, a painting between surrealism and life in the 70s.

A lot of people really, really hope this film as “Boogie Nights” or Paul Thomas Anderson films in general. I think Anderson tried to work on something new, with the same style but wanted to direct a new idea. But, this is really not a bad movie by Paul Thomas Anderson. “Inherent Vice” has all aspects even this will be a cult in the future. Instead of smoking weed, I’d better watch this film. Everything in this film is really, really chaotic and messy.

4 out of 5 stars.

Salman Al Farisi

An Indonesian who loves to watch and read everything. A literary student who likes to write about reviews and essays on Crackdown Review. But, I just wannabe critics who love arthouse than anything.

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