A dude kinda investigates the disappearance of a real estate mogul. Dude.
‘Inherent vice’ is a term used in insurance which refers to an object that is fundamentally unstable and represents a risk to the insurer. I had time to look that up during Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest, and many more things besides.
Which isn’t to say that I disliked the picture, but this sprawling 148 dude-detective flick has at least two meandering scenes for every moment which furthers the plot and is built around a kind of fuzzy stoner logic that never really crosses over into the rational.
But that’s by design. Paul Thomas Anderson modelled the film exactly (often down to the word) on Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 novel and its loose and loping stride is translated pretty much intact, right down to the odd moments of humour and odder moments of entirely different things.
It’s kind of many things but the closest would probably be a comedy, at least that’s what I’m inferring from the amount of times Joaquin Phoenix falls over. The gags come pretty fast which serves to give the illusion of momentum for at least the first 90 minutes or so.
Phoenix is terrific too, playing a basically useless detective in the worst kind of scrapes. There’s a touch of The Dude about him certainly but he’s also his own unique dude, prone to wandering off mid-sentence and intense expressions of confusion, pretty much in line with the audience.
The rest of the (massive) cast does good work too – especially Brolin who I would never have pegged for a comedic role. It’s a film full of broad moments and over the top characters but they rarely grate, and Anderson knows exactly when to use the breathtaking Katherine Waterston to best effect.
Inherent Vice is actually a surprisingly straight forward film, full of fun characters, oddball humour and plenty of quotable lines. And that’s all entertaining enough, but by the time the third hour kicks off the lack of a discernible plot made my attention seriously wane. No doubt for some it is another masterpiece from Paul Thomas Anderson but others will wonder what all the fuss was about.