alphonse’s review published on Letterboxd :
I've said this numerous times during my Letterboxd career, but it's never late to remember that crime comedy has always been my favorite film genre. Given that I'm a sucker for this type of films and that I consider Paul Thomas Anderson the greatest filmmaker currently working on the business, my expectations for Inherent Vice were high, but I never imagined it would be this perfect. I'm aware this film is not for everybody, but Anderson's neo-noir is, according to my taste, a masterpiece; as if being hilarious is not enough, Inherent Vice is one of Anderson's most well-written and entertaining films.
It's not hard to understand why some people actually hate the film; Inherent Vice is so convoluted that when it reaches its end, we look back and we try to understand what was the story or what was it trying to say, but, no matter how hard we try, we can't get a solid answer—we only know Doc got into real trouble just because he wanted to help his ex. However, that's probably why it's so magical; I think most people don't understand it's not about trying to understand the story, but about enjoying the ride and spending some time with Doc Sportello and his friends. In fact, Paul Thomas Anderson's latest films is much more about its character(s) than about its convoluted, confusing story.
There hasn't been a film so continuously hilarious since The Big Lebowski, there wasn't a minute in the film where I wasn't laughing like an idiot; maybe it's the fact that everyone calls him a hippie or that he's accidentally funny or that everyone around him is just hilarious, but Inherent Vice is the ultimate stoner comedy because never in the history of film a motion picture captured the essence of a stoner character so well, Paul Thomas Anderson really gets under Doc's skin and sets the tone of the film using his state of mind. We look at the protagonist in the beginning of the film and we think “OMG, he's so disoriented and stoned that he has no idea of what is happening around him”, but when the film ends we are in the same position, the only difference is that we didn't have to smoke ten pounds of pot.
In fact, I believe that Paul Thomas Anderson is the best filmmaker writing characters in the history of cinema; we are used to see some fascinating character studies from him and although in Inherent Vice he shows a completely different approach, the truth is that it's another brilliant character piece and his humane dimension is still there. However, Larry Doc Sportello is not the only unforgettable character of Anderson's neo-noir, the truth is that all the secondary characters have their own magic; yet we can't really remember their names, the film was convoluted and complex that it was hard to understand who was who, but I'm sure their figure will linger long in my memory.
Inherent Vice could've been a mess in the worst way possible, but PTA is such a genius and he controls his ideas so well that it turns out to be one of the best films I've ever seen. Yet his impressive mastery is not only in the way he never allows the confusing to become incoherent or the convoluted become misleading; it's also in the way he captures the end of an era with such precision and color, he makes it feel like we're in the 70s only using the visual style. As we can expect from the director, Inherent Vice is wonderfully shot, PTA uses a beautiful slow zoom that gives an extra dynamic to the film and also uses some of his characteristic long takes and impressive camera angles to add some spice.
Plus, the decoration and design of the film, the hairstyles and costumes, the vibrant colors and the lens the director used really throw you back to that specific time; Inherent Vice is one of the most visually appealing, eccentric and stylish films of the year. Yet his regular cinematographer Robert Elswit is not the only “employee” he should keep; Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood wrote and composed one of his best film music scores to date. In addition, all the other unoriginal songs (including one unpublished Radiohead song) are also brilliant and in line with the engaging, nostalgic vibe of the film.
Paul Thomas Anderson is back working with an ensemble cast and yet again he gets some impressive performances from his reliable cast. Joaquin Phoenix, who once again proves he's the best actor of the moment along with Daniel Day-Lewis, delivers another flawless and fascinating performance as Larry Doc Sportello. He captures the tone of the film perfectly, gets under his stoner character so well and also gives some colour to the film with a couple of cartoonish moments; actually, I believe his work in Inherent Vice is the funniest performance an actor ever delivered, it's just perfect. However, we can't forget the secondary cast; another PTA film and another actor who delivers the best performance of his career—this time it was Josh Brolin, he takes the idea of dark humour to another level. Now add to that Owen Wilson, Del Toro, Reese Witherspoon and a bunch of less famous actors who also deliver brilliant performances.
It's hard to faithfully my express my love for this films with simple, vague words; Inherent Vice is a beautifully written, dialogue-heavy neo-noir and stoner comedy that never loses its impressive energy throughout its 150-minute runtime. Yet it is almost impossible to fully understand the film on the first watch because this first time was more about enjoying the ride than about decoding the story or analyzing its themes, meaning it probably gets even better on a rewatch. Hilarious, visually stunning and narratively absorbing, Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice is the perfect example of a masterpiece.