Jere’s review published on Letterboxd :
Exuberant. This was the word that went through my head over and over in PTA’s newest film, “Inherent Vice.” From what has been shown before, Paul Thomas Anderson has an apparent obsession with the past and this time, he shows us the 1970s (again). Yes, back when sex was cheap, drugs were plentiful, and hallucinations may or may not have been a part of daily life. Saying this film is a stoner comedy or a film noir gives the film a lot less credit than it deserves. The film does not have a blatant “I’M HIGH NOW” scene, and neither does it have a scene where a man is polishing his .367 Magnum, mourning the death of the prostitute with a heart of gold. This film can only be described as a Paul Thomas Anderson movie.
“Well what’s it all about?” you may ask. Like almost everyone else, I have no goddamn clue. Many people have said this was due to bad or even lazy writing. I promptly respond with: No. Now, I don’t want to sound apologetic by saying “That’s what makes it so good” but, well, that’s what made it so good. Through the beginning, I was frantically piecing everything together but to no avail. It was then when I realized that we are in the mind of a P.I. who smokes all the time. It was then when I embraced the absurdity.
1970s Los Angeles is shown impeccably here. From the first scene, the setting just gives you a big hug. It’s the first time in a long time where I was fully immersed in a film. When I reminded myself that real life existed, I felt that “damn it!” type feeling. The film wouldn’t have this sense of place if the camera work wasn’t good, and again, since the very first scene, it was just great. Some of the frames for some shots were just so great. I loved the shots where the camera man is supposedly standing straight but the camera moves as if it were on water in particular. The sets also add to this sense of place as well. They are all vibrant, distinct, and just watching others use the detailed spaces they were given was very entertaining in its own right.
As to be expected with PTA, the writing and acting were all great. This time humor was a real heavy factor (at least in the beginning). There were quite a few times where what the characters said, did, or went through was really gut busting. Despite watching what seems like nonsense, you still feel a very great sense of adventure. Since you know that you don’t know what’s happening, you know that you don’t know what will happen. Much like many of the great [insert crime here] mysteries, you don’t know where the next lead will take the main character. Speaking of which, the characters were all fantastic. Each is joyfully absurd and something I noticed was that almost the only ones who were stern and angry were the ones who didn’t do drugs.
All this being said, Inherent Vice is not perfect. There were many times where I had no idea what the hell these people were saying. Also, the humor is toned a bit down when the movie hits “the middle mark.” In the beginning its basically funny scenario to funny scenario but, while the middle is still filled with these moments, its toned a lot compared to the beginning. Also, while the soundtrack is really good, Jonny Greenwood’s score is sparsely used. And if it was used, it was mainly just background music. While I’m not sure how an orchestral score would fit in a 1970s comedy, it’s a shame that it is not used to the extent to the likes of There Will Be Blood and The Master.
What more is there to say? This was a fantastic period piece of the 1970s and I barley understood it. But I understand that it was immensely enjoyable, exuberant adventure. While I will have to watch it again with subtitles, and again but this time taking notes, I will do so happily without any fatigue or annoyance. After the credits rolled, I felt all warm and fuzzy as if I just received a big hug from this fantastic filmmaker and of course everyone else involved. Simply put, this movie left me with a smile on my face and that didn’t go away for a long time.