Thursday, June 04, 2015

Inherent Vice 2014

                      I suppose my hating this film with a passion might be seen to some as a recommendation. After all they might say I'm not hip enough or intellectual enough to get this shaggy dog movie of an L.A detective romp based on the novel by that extreme “in”and cool writer Thomas Pynchon who I have never read, and who I will never read. Directed by the hip, cool  and smart Paul Thomas Anderson who made three masterpieces early in his career (Hard Eight, Boogie Nights and Magnolia), and has for the last few years been floundering on the cinematic wide beautiful beaches of California like a dying jellyfish. This film does nothing to change the floundering to flourishing.
               Set in a cramped dark and dingy 1970 L.A. it’s a convoluted mess that goes on and on for an unbelievable and unbearable 149 minutes and involves a plot that is dense, tangled, silly and messy. Watching it I immediately thought of and wished I was watching some of the terrific detective mysteries set in this neck of the woods from Hawk's "The Big Sleep" to Altman's "The Long Goodbye" along with a stopover for Polanski's "Chinatown" instead of this pretentious term paper. 
                 The main problem(s) for me with this self conscious take on the genre is that its not fun, its more like a job that you hate and can't wait for 5 o’clock to come so you can get the hell out of there and go home. To be sure there are moments that gave me pause and some pleasure but not enough pause and certainly not enough pleasure.
                   The cast is varied and sometimes vivid.  Josh Brolin is commanding and outlandish as the sicko mean cop Bigfoot Bjornsen who has a strong taste for sucking on chocolate covered bananas and is bullied and henpecked at home by a nasty wife who we only hear and never see. A nice  touch.
               This banana scene is a funny bit the first time, but by the 4th sucking the joke has worn thin. Bigfoot’s confrontations and run in’s with private dick “Doc” Sportello gives way to too many “What’s Up Doc” jokes along with lots of references to dicks and other phallic imagery that are sprinkled through out the film. But “Doc” is well played by Joaquin Phoenix who is decked out in very scary mutton chops sideburns and pretty much rules the film. There are several disappearances, neo nazis, corrupt real estate deals and the usual drug and right wing political schemes, with Nixon and Charlie Manson hanging over the proceedings like banners at an outdoor street fair. The stench of pot hovers over the proceedings along with nasty sex that is like slaps to the face and a wide group of weird characters who come and go as they please including  Jeannie Berlin, Eric Roberts, Maya Rudolph, Reese Witherspoon, Martin Short, Benicio Del Toro and the ever present Owen Wilson.


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