“Inherent Vice” fails to connect with viewers


Cameron Hamm, Writer

After leaving Inherent Vice, I was struck with the feeling that I was missing something. Somewhere along the two and a half hour run time, after slowly becoming less and less interested in Joaquin Phoenix’s character Doc bumbling around trying to solve some sort of mystery, Inherent Vice had lost me.

Now don’t get me wrong, in terms of style and atmosphere, director Paul Thomas Anderson does a great job of transporting the viewer into 1970s Los Angeles. Multiple times throughout the movie I felt myself whisked away from cold Kansas to the hazy summer of 1970. The hippy lifestyle is prominently showcased, and to the film’s credit it really peaked my interest in the no attachments, fringe lifestyle. Nearly every actor does a great job of selling the scene, making certain parts come to life. I’ve never particularly wanted to be a hippy, but Inherent Vice had me wanting to spend time in the film’s universe, exploring and experimenting with the characters.

However, while Inherent Vice seems chalk full of ideas, it can’t quite pick one and develop it. There are some interesting ideas floating around, like the nature of the police, good, evil, and redemption, and the individual vs society. But the sheer amount of characters, plot lines, and commentary become tangled up, resulting in a muddled mess. The dialogue didn’t help either; oftentimes it was very difficult to hear what a character was saying. A huge part of a movie’s message is conveyed through dialogue. With a chunk of that dialogue missed, I felt it hard to stay awake as I was progressively confused and bored by the film.

Unlike Anderson’s previous film, The Master, which had glorious performances and ensnaring camera work, this film seems to be lacking both. The acting isn’t bad by any means, but the characters just weren’t interesting enough. Similar to The Master, Inherent Vice seems like it’s trying very hard to be smart, but both had me walking away feeling unsatisfied.

In looking through what makes a movie stand out to me, I need something to connect to. Something that is relatable, and fits right into my life experiences. Besides Phoenix’s musings on his love interest, I found almost nothing to relate to, nothing powerful or coherent enough. While Anderson is sure to find acclaim with self impressed highbrow viewers or whomever, I just couldn’t get into Inherent Vice.