Inherent Vice (15)

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin, Katherine Waterstone, Jena Malone

Ok Paul Thomas Anderson, I give up! The critics might love you but try as I might, you and me? Just not happening. Boogie Nights and Magnolia? Ok but not bowled over. I absolutely hated 'There Will Be Blood' and couldn't believe Daniel Day Lewis' hammy over acting won him an Oscar. However, after hearing raves about this and finding the trailer amusing, I raced out of work quickly to catch an early show on Friday. Alone in the cinema (again!) I ended up checking my email and text messages more than once, so dull was this film at times.
JoaquĆ­n Phoenix is Doc, a private eye who goes looking for his ex-girlfriend Shastra (Kate Waterstone - daughter of Sam) in what seems a deliberately convoluted and incomprehensible plot. The point seems to be to give a whole bunch of good actors little moments, and I did enjoy Jena Malone and Josh Brolin's scenes. The film came alive most for me when Reese Witherspoon popped up as Doc's apparently straight laced DA casual girlfriend. Witherspoon and Phoenix were great together in Walk the Line several years back, and their scenes together were definitely the highlight.
More troubling was the, at times, exploitative view of some of the female characters. Gratuitous hookers in a clinch and Shastra stripping naked and writhing about until Doc spanks and shags her in a nastily aggressive manner. This came near the end of the movie when I had given up in following the plot and wishing I could have some of what they were smoking to get me through to the end!
At 2 1/2 hours long, this was a real trial for me. Don't know if I have looked at my watch as much in a film for years! Anderson may have his fans but it is time to admit I just don't get him. Others seem to enjoy the trippy atmosphere - and I did for about 20 mins. The acting and performances were all good, but for me this was a self indulgent, narrative-free mess. I'm not saying it's necessarily a bad film, but I am clearly not on Paul Thomas Anderson's wavelength!

January 2015

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