Paul Thomas Anderson returns with this adaptation of the novel by Thomas Pynchon. Larry "Doc" Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is a private investigator, who is visited by his old flame Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston), who wants help involving her missing boyfriend Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts). Doc’s investigation results in him crossing paths with Lt. Det. Christian F. "Bigfoot" Bjornsen (Josh Brolin), as well as getting help from his lawyer Sauncho Smilax, Esq. (Benicio Del Toro) and Deputy D.A. Penny Kimball (Reese Witherspoon). Doc is also tasked with searching for a reportedly deceased saxophone player named Coy Harlingen (Owen Wilson).
In the lead up to the release of Inherent Vice, there was some talk that the film was going to be Paul Thomas Anderson’s equivalent of The Big Lebowski, partially due to the film’s quite well-edited trailer, which makes the film look like it has a much more coherent plot than it actually does. It turns out that Inherent Vice is much more like an extended drug trip than a mystery and I am frankly quite hard pressed to say what was going on in the film.
While comparing Inherent Vice to The Big Lebowski is not entirely incorrect, there is a lot that happens in the film’s nearly two and half hour running time, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. As a very hardcore drug user, Doc is barely functioning most of the time and half of his observations are part of his drug-induced stupor. While some may find this type of behaviour to be funny, I just found it quite taxing to watch, especially as it seemed that the film wasn’t really going anywhere, as new individuals are introduced, including an extended cameo by Martin Short, to be featured in only one or two scenes.
Other than Joaquin Phoenix and narration by Sortilège (Joanna Newsom), the main constant in the film is Josh Brolin as Lt. Det. Christian F. "Bigfoot" Bjornsen. Bigfoot has a very antagonistic relationship with Doc and is just as likely to throw him in jail than help him out. The character moves in and out of the story and is often seen eating chocolate-covered bananas, which becomes a bit of a recurring gag.
It was very obvious to me while watching Inherent Vice that it is a movie that would divide people. Some people are going to love this incoherent stoner mystery and others are going to absolutely hate it. I am somewhere in between. I can’t really say that I liked the movie, but I also wouldn’t say that I hated it either. It was just there for me.5 | INDIFFERENT