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Inherent Vice (Blu-ray Review)

30 Apr, 2015 By: John Latchem

Box Office $8.11 million
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for drug use throughout, sexual content, graphic nudity, language and some violence.
Stars Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio del Toro, Jena Malone, Joanna Newsom, Martin Short.

For his seventh full-length feature film, Paul Thomas Anderson, a notoriously esoteric director, chose to adapt a 2009 detective novel by Thomas Pynchon, a notorious recluse. Given that Inherent Vice is the first of Pynchon’s work to be adapted for the screen in a career spanning more than five decades, it would seem to be a perfect match.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Doc, a pothead private detective in 1970 who is tipped off by an old girlfriend about a kidnapping scheme involving a local real estate baron. Coincidentally, Doc is hired on several other cases that seem to relate to the man, which leads him into the midst of an international heroin cartel and a potential plot by the FBI to take over Las Vegas.

With a quirky protagonist swept up in a kidnapping conspiracy that ultimately unwinds itself as he encounters a gallery of over-the-top characters, Inherent Vice naturally invites comparisons to The Big Lebowski. But unlike Lebowski, Vice is largely inaccessible due to Anderson’s style — particularly his penchant for extended scenes and visual distinction — which is no doubt something his usual fans will love.

The biggest misstep is probably Anderson’s decision to frame the story with a narrator that seems to serve as Doc’s drug-fueled inner monologue, which ends up being more of a distraction while having the practical effect of dragging things out.

The film requires multiple viewings in order to even begin to piece how all the plot points fit together, and it does gets better upon subsequent rewatches provided the viewer has the patience to sit through it again.

Inherent Vice is ultimately a bizarre concoction, wholly invested in its mood and settings, though the film only casually references historical events that are given more weight in the book, as Anderson keeps the focus entirely on Doc and his adventures.

On the whole, Inherent Vice offers more to like than not, resonating mostly for a scattering of memorable scenes and some fascinating characters, such as Josh Brolin’s cop who moonlights as an extra in TV shows and commercials, or Martin Short as a coked up, sex-hungry dentist.

The producers of the Blu-ray seem to have been so caught up in the noir mood they didn’t bother with any real bonus features. All the disc contains is 11 minutes worth of extended trailers for the film, presented as a progression of different characters musing about the story.

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