Movie Madhouse Film Review: Inherent Vice

309431id1h_InherentVice_Teaser_27x40_1Sheet_6C.inddHave you ever wondered how to become a cinephile? How to join the ranks of the film loving elite? It’s simple. So simple in fact that it can be achieved in three simple steps.

Step 1: Watch movies directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.

Step 2: Like (or at least pretend to like) movies directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.

Step 3: Point out Anderson’s elaborate camera movements, realistic characters, or exploration of dysfunctional family dynamics.

All jokes aside, I really do love Paul Thomas Anderson. He is one of, if not the, most meticulous, honest, and brilliant directors working today. His two most recent films, There Will Be Blood and The Master, will undoubtedly be considered two of the most important works of the early 21st century. Given Anderson’s average of excellence, high expectations for his latest film, Inherent Vice, are to be expected.

This is the part of the review where I would typically put some kind of plot synopsis. I’m not going to do that here, because I have no clue what happened in this movie. Suffice it to say that the ex-girlfriend of Joaquin Phoenix’s character, Doc, comes to him with a problem, and then goes missing. The rest of the movie follows Doc’s efforts to find out what happened to her.

Typically a convoluted and confusing narrative would be a bad thing in a film, but it weirdly fits here. The movie approaches its own story with a fascinating frantic lethargy. Almost as if the film itself is as high as its oft stoned protagonist.

There are a number of departures of Paul Thomas Anderson this time around. His previous two films have been much larger in scope, spanning entire lifetimes. Inherent Vice takes place, seemingly, over a couple of days. The camera work in Inherent Vice is also drastically different than Anderson’s previous work. There are no long complex shots or breathtaking visuals. There aren’t even any bizarre family dynamics. It is different, but it is still uniquely Anderson’s.

This review won’t have a star rating to accompany it. In fact I am going hold of final judgement of Inherent Vice until I have seen it a second time. It’s confusing, rambling, and radically different from the Paul Thomas Anderson films I have come to love. Still there is something there. I have no clue what it is, or if it is even worth discovering, either way Inherent Vice is worth watching. Just don’t expect to get away with only seeing it once.


For more movie reviews, ratings, and lists, you can tune in to 91.9 KSDB Sundays at 5 for the Movie Madhouse and/or visit Willy’s letterboxd page at

By: Willy Evans

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