Film Review “Inherent Vice”

Inherent-Vice-leg-posterStarring: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin and Katherine Waterston
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Rated: R
Running time: 2 hours 28 mins
Warner Brothers

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Paul Thomas Anderson’s seventh feature film is the perfect culmination of a visual and storytelling style that he has been honing to a fine point since his first film, “Hard Eight,” in 1996. “Inherent Vice,” based on the 2009 novel from reclusive author Thomas Pynchon, hits perfectly. With outstanding performances, great music, and stunning – yet unobtrusive – production design.

The only thing I can think of that can be thought of as negative, is that this movie MUST be viewed multiple times. There are layers upon layers, and so many things that are easily missed with a single viewing. This film is definitely not for a passive viewer. I have seen this film several times now and I can’t even say that I completely follow the story. But I trust that all the information is there.

Watching Paul Thomas Anderson make the switch from the 2.35:1 aspect ratio down to the 1.85:1 ratio has been strange; as I have always loved anamorphic widescreen. But Anderson has complete control of his film frame, and no longer has that angsty drive to move the camera constantly. He puts the camera exactly where it needs to be and just lets the actors perform. And perform they do.

Joaquin Phoenix gives another spectacular performance; as does his co-star, Katherine Waterston, who matches him perfectly. Waterston was unknown to me up to this point – even though she is the daughter of Sam Waterston – but she holds her own within this ensemble cast. Her character of Shasta Fay Hepworth is probably the least quirky of all the characters within this story, but she delivers a much-needed vulnerability.

While the story is set in 1970, it doesn’t feel like a period piece. It LOOKS like one, but doesn’t feel like one. The costumes, set decoration, hair styles, and all around general look of this film say 1970 but it doesn’t do it in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way. You are never distracted by the cars they drive, or the fact they use telephones with cords on them. “Inherent Vice” is a period piece with a contemporary feel. Which is a hard thing to pull off. It’s easy to lose a younger audience by showing them a time and technology they never knew.

With a running time of 148 minutes it would be easy to get scared off by the length, but this film is never slow. It runs the perfect line of fast-paced performances offset by long, continuous takes. There are at least two shots within this film that are over five minutes long. And they work!

“Inherent Vice” is an off-beat masterpiece. Its story is as real as the actor’s portraying the characters believe; and they make the audience believe. It is one of the only films I have seen this year that I feel has the potential to have multiple awards consideration. Lead actors, ensemble, score, adapted screenplay and directing. It is a solid film from every angle, and definitely, DEFINITELY worth seeing.

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