Review: Inherent Vice – Thomas Anderson does Thomas Pynchon proud in a stimulating crime drama
Inherent Vice is Paul Thomas Anderson’s seventh film and, is a huge improvement on his last film The Master. Thomas Pynchon’s publication has been adapted and put on screen. A first, considering his 50 year publishing career, and that this is the first novel he has allowed to be filmed.
This film is a typical tale about a private investigator called Larry ‘Doc’ Sportello (Joaquin Pheonix), however in this case the investigator is a stoner, in all honesty.
The opening scene is set in the fictional Californian neighbourhood of Gordita Beach in 1970, (just a coincidence the year Anderson was born). During this opening scene there is a voiceover from indie singer Joanna Newsom, where she explains: “these were perilous times, astrologically speaking, for dopers”, already, just from this voiceover, you get the sense that things won’t run smooth for a certain dope smoker.
The next shot features an intoxicated Doc, a common occurrence throughout, who receives a visit from his ex-girlfriend Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston). Shasta reveals that she is having an affair with Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts), a real-estate millionaire. Following this confession she explains that there is a plot against her lover, allegedly concocted by Mickeys’s egotistic wife Sloane (Serena Scott Thomas) and her vain toy-boy Riggs Warbling (Andrew Simpson). The plot in question, is to have Mickey admitted to a “looney bin” in order for them to gain his wealth. Shasta easily persuades the doped up Doc to get involved.
While helping Shasta look for Wolfmann, Doc comes across Tariq Khalil (Michael K. Williams), who asks him to help find Glen Charlock (Christopher Allen Nelson), a body guard of Mickey’s whom Tariq owes money to.
Having gone to find Charlock, Doc ends up at Mickey’s Channel View Estates project. When he arrives, there’s not much to see but a small strip mall a massage parlour present, he enters the parlour which instead ends up being a brothel. Doc tries searching the premiss for Charlock though is knocked out by a blow to the head with a baseball bat. He awakens to find himself surrounded by cop cars, with detective Christian ‘Bigfoot’ Bjornsen (Josh Brolin) approaching. Christian turns out to be just one of the problematic issues Doc faces in this highly sexualised, doped up noir that makes you feel like you have been to the seventies and back.
The film itself carries a complex storyline and takes a great deal of concentration, it’s definitely there to be enjoyed by a specific audience. However Anderson has done Thomas Pynchon proud in this stimulating crime drama.