Inherent Vice ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

(Viewed theatrically.) Went to the next showing possible after last night's. Anticipated this second viewing even more than my first, quite impressive given how much I loved the trailer and various teasers, and this film marks the first time that I slept poorly due to anticipation of a movie. Obviously the Shasta/Doc relationship is the core here, and the movie does well to begin (well, technically, not quite begin) and end on scenes of theirs, two of its best scenes in fact, topped only by at least one and maybe two other Shasta/Doc scenes (the first being Journey Through the Past, the second being her back at his apartment). The movie reminds us that this is the core every time someone mentions her name as much as it reminds Joaquin of his purpose, as if he needs it. It's a good thing the film is capable of being so funny because otherwise the sadness might be too devastating to bear on repeat watches; as it is, it manages a perfect balance of longing, pretense, and just enough awareness to realize that nothing will ever be the same, if the remembrances of how things were are even correct to begin with. This feels a little like PTA's A SERIOUS MAN--less personal, but a comedy centered on a straight-man facing a world seemingly set against him and for no apparent reason, and like A SERIOUS MAN is for the Coens, both PTA's funniest and outright strangest film. IV is also similarly bleak, such as when you realize that Phoenix's fondness for Bigfoot and Shasta, the two people with which he has significant relationships, seems to be due largely to the fact that he knows with certainty how they'll treat him, even if it is badly--the only certainties in a shifting world that otherwise passes his understanding. Bleak too is the fact that despite all that's been said about the purity of Doc's accepting Shasta's case out of his love for her, it reads as grim one way or another, with Doc either straightforwardly allowing himself to be used, or him treating it as a self-serving opportunity that will still end up with a bittersweet outcome at best, another chance for him to get another brief bit of time with Shasta before she leaves again with him grasping after her, mirroring the opening scene. As bad as the circumstances of his taking the case are, the conclusion may be even more grim, with the case resolving itself negatively and Doc forced to redirect his focus to a case he barely cares about just to prove his worth and humanity to himself, propelled onward by the same absurdism that compels him to take the case just for Shasta's sake despite knowing that no result will end with the outcome he wants. But despite all of this unrelenting gloom that hangs hazily over the movie, Anderson still instills empathy, humanity, and warmth at every opportunity to a degree that makes the hope these characters seem not completely over-optimistic despite their current circumstances.

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