Quick Review: Inherent Vice

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* * * 1/2

Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson, 2014

To me, Inherent Vice felt like an incredibly personal film. Perhaps not so much in that it is biographical for Anderson, but that this was the movie he wanted to see, and wanted to make, whether or not it appeals (or makes sense) to its audience. I’ve seen films that want to do that before, but most seem to have a rather dismissive attitude to their audience, and that is not the case here. He doesn’t hate his audience, nor is he indifferent to them. He perhaps cares about his characters and their world that he is recreating more than satisfying any sort of expectations of form or sense making from our external world.

The aspect of this film that makes it incredibly hard to review is that the film wants to replicate the drugged perceptive worldview of its protagonist. And it does so impressively, to the point that the film is commendable and successful in its incoherence; but it’s a warm incoherence instead of an austere rejection of narrative sense-making. It’s a movie best enjoyed as a sensory experience more so than as a narrative text, and one that plays better as memory than initial viewing (I suspect that this will be one of those movies that I will hold in higher regard the more I think about it). In large part because the film itself seems to be full of literary, musical, and filmic references from Anderson’s own memory.

There are a couple of beautiful moments in the film, particularly related to Doc’s relationship to Shasta. I’m not sure what they meant, but neither does Doc. But I think he and I feel that there’s something true about this moments, truths worth holding onto.


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