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Review: Inherent Vice

Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s last two films have been the pinnacle of american cinema over the last decade or so, no one has matched his sheer brilliance at creating complete cinematic experiences. Films that plunder the brain, tantalise the eyes and most importantly command your absolute attention. It may be because the bar is so high, or that the anticipation was so great but Inherent Vice just doesn’t sit right. 

Phoenix so impressive in The Master plays hippy private eye Larry ‘Doc’ Sportello, mashed up and heart-broken he commits himself to a case of intrigue, sordidness and well…dentists. The plot isn’t confusing in the conventional sense, its confusing because half the time you’re struggling to actually believe what is being done or said. Surreal is the word, and Inherent Vice oozes a craziness that is commendable if slightly alienating.

Inherent Vice also sees Anderson return to comedy, moments of hilarity do ensue but I have to say I wasn’t always laughing when I knew I was meant to. There were moments where the comedy seemed slightly lazy, even dumb and Phoenix’s brilliant physicality I felt was never fully utilised. Having said that watching an actor like Phoenix is always interesting – even if I don’t feel he has missed out on an Oscar nod like he did with Her – he exudes an unrivalled brilliance when it comes to how he draws his characters.

Moreover I don’t mind a meandering plot but the final act does test patience, and you begin to believe the great man is losing track of his ambitious project as each scene goes one. The flashes of genius occur, for example the scene within the golden fang headquarters is deliriously good and the plot strand involving Owen Wilson is really good, but the great moments are few and far between.

There might be something there, there feels like there might be, many are saying a second viewing is necessary. But Inherent Vice is flawed, the flashes of flesh are reserved only for the female characters, something that you’d expect Anderson to at least balance out. For those hoping for another classic, I think only the most wishful thinking will get what they are looking for, yet to say this isn’t as good as two of the best films ever made is hardly a bad thing. This is still the work of an auteur, Anderson’s reputation cannot be dented, this just simply doesn’t work.