Inherent Vice

 Inherent Vice is one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. Josh Brolin, Joaquin, and Benicio all give standout performances. It's definitely confusing, it does drag on a bit, and the ending isn't completely perfect, but the humor is so refreshing and spot-on that I'm giving it 4.5/5.

Inherent Vice looked interesting from the trailer. I don't remember what Roeper said about it, but he gave it a B, so I guess he didn't hate it. I think Chris liked it more after thinking about it than he did right after he saw it. All that put together, and I still wanted to give it a shot, but I went in prepared to just enjoy the ride and not have everything wrapped up at the end.

I was surprised by how funny it was. It's subtle humor; they don't beat you over the head with it, but it's good. I'd say it's the funniest movie I've seen in a year, so that should count for something. I love that they shot it on actual film. It looks amazing; it has character without looking dated - although since it is set in the 70s, you could probably allow some dated-ness leeway. I liked how most of the women didn't look like they were wearing makeup. They all looked clean and natural. I'm sure they were wearing some makeup, but it just wasn't over-the-top like usual.

The music got you into the 70s vibe, and some of it was pretty interesting, but it could also be obtrusive at times. I pretty much like Joaquin Phoenix in anything, and he was great to watch here. There are so many cameos. It seems like every scene introduces a new recognizable face. I think Jamie Lannister probably bothered me for the longest; I made it a third of the way through the scene before I figured out who he was, and I didn't get Jena Malone until the credits. Owen Wilson is so instantly recognizable it was obvious that was Coy in the alleyway, but I wonder if I would have been able to tell if Owen hadn't been playing him. Martin Short was clearly having fun with Dr. Blatnoyd, and Maya Rudolph brought a lot of personality to the receptionist role. It was awesome that he actually had an office with "other" doctors.

Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro are another two actors I like in just about anything, and they were great here as well. The whole pirates/marine law thing with Bigfoot and Sauncho was great, and so where Sauncho's "clients pay me money, Doc" and "you're gonna kick him? That's assault!" bits. Bigfoot's "motto panukeiku" scene was in the trailer, but luckily I had completely forgotten anything from the trailer by the time I saw the movie, and it surprised me when it came around again. I love that Josh is saying it in Japanese (or probably just his version of it) and the cook answers back in English. And the scene where he tells Doc that Shasta is "gone" is amazing.

They really managed to get a lot of character development into Bigfoot, with him wanting to be an actor (that explains why he was on the commercial - I didn't get it at first, but I did realize it before the end of the movie), and his relationship with his wife and son, and how the cops got away with killing his partner for whatever reason. I don't quite follow his preoccupation with the bananas, but the way Doc was looking at him in the car was priceless. Maybe it was just a nod to the fact that the mere existence of those things is crazy.

Normally I don't go for surrealism, but it was so subtle here that I actually liked it. I loved the running gag with Doc walking in to the police station, and all the cops. I was reading the subtitles and I didn't quite catch how it happened that the first cop ran into him full force, but it was so funny the way he went out of his way to avoid the next cop, and then the scene where he's just in "nuclear bomb position" and all of them are streaming past him. I thought that really happened when I saw it, but the more I thought about it, maybe that was just a representation of how he felt. It doesn't matter, though. It was good either way.

I wasn't really enthralled with Shasta, and I'm not sure it's so good for Doc that they're "not back together," but maybe he'll at least be happy until she leaves him again. I wonder if Sortilège had a thing for him. She definitely cared about him a lot. I really enjoyed her narration. I loved it when she told him to change his hair, and he sort of permed it, and then it looked all crazy, but watching it gradually straighten back out kind of gave me something to do during the movie. It looked best somewhere between fresh-curly and totally straight. I thought the title referred to just "it's in these people's nature to do naughty things," but it's actually marine law code for "shit happens," so that's cool.

The whole movie certainly was confusing. And it did seem to drag on forever. I didn't like that they kept constantly throwing new characters and information at us. You could barely wrap your head around something before they introduced something new. Maybe they were just trying to convey the sense of confusion that Doc felt. I did think it was a little too convenient that all of those people kept coming to him. I wondered how realistic that was. If you sat down and thought about it, though, you could probably trace everyone's motives back to something logical.

It was so absurd (and funny) that they tried to make it look like Dr. Blatnoyd died in a trampoline accident. And the scene with Doc and Japonica's (by the way, Japonica? what?) father was so great. "But isn't she of legal age?" The absurdity of Denis carrying around that steering wheel was good ("I told you I don't know how to drive!"). Sure, but how does that lead to the steering wheel coming off? I guess Doc fixed it, because he was driving his car after that, and I assume it was the same car. The scene when Doc first sees Puck is great, too. "Maybe you should just ignore that man."

I'm still not really sure what was going on with Wolfmann. I can only assume The Golden Fang wanted him at the retreat. Or the FBI did. And that's about as far as I can get. I did notice Hope's teeth before she mentioned them, though. And I don't know why they killed Glenn. I guess Puck or Adrian killed him, maybe because the cops wanted him dead, but I don't know why. Maybe just to make it look like Wolfmann got killed or forcibly taken somewhere.

I'm glad I didn't see it at the theater, though. People's reactions probably would've been annoying. And I had to turn the subtitles on within the first five minutes because I could barely make out half of what people were saying. It kind of took a turn when Puck was about to kill Doc. He got really violent there. It was justified since his life was in danger, but it didn't fit the tone of the movie. And then he shot Adrian, and the sex scene with Shasta out of nowhere; and the scene with Bigfoot eating all of Doc's weed was totally random, too.

I wonder if that stuff wasn't in the original story and somebody just added it. It didn't detract from the movie much, but it definitely seemed shoehorned in. I wasn't thrilled about the ending. I liked that Doc managed to get Coy back to his family. That would've been too happy of a note to end it on. The Bigfoot thing made it a little less happy, but it was so out of place that it didn't make it any better. The tight shot on Doc and Shasta at the end drove me nuts. I wanted to at least see the road they were on, not that I would've had any idea where they were going.

7/30/16 update: I forgot how much this movie drags in places. It’s not nearly as funny as I remember it being. I do still love all the funny parts, though. It seemed more clear this time around that Shasta’s no good for Doc. I kind of don’t like that they’re together again at the end. I’m not sure I had any better of a handle on things the second time around; being 13 months later, I had pretty much forgotten everything I learned the first time.

It was funny, though, because the person I watched it with said "I need to see that again," which is exactly how I felt. Somehow seeing it again didn’t really add any clarity, but I think that might be kind of the point of the movie – it’s supposed to convey a sense of the general confusion of the time.

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