“Inherent Vice”: An LSD trip on film

By Chris Mudd, Staff Writer

“Inherent Vice” was a two-and-a-half-hour trip through the hippie generation through the eyes of Joaquin Phoenix.

Adapted from the book of the same name by Thomas Pynchon, “Vice” is the latest from writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson, best known for films such as “The Master” and “There Will be Blood.” Both of which blow “Vice” out of the water in both the story and cinematography fields.

What “Vice” excelled in was mood and a consistent tone. The dream-like quality of the film left me not quite sure what I watched, and that was the whole point. If an LSD trip became a movie, it would be this one.

While the trailers for the film marketed it as a detective story, where Joaquin Phoenix’s Doc investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend, the actual plot took a complete backseat to the aesthetics of the film. The entirety of which felt somehow foggy and disconnected, leaving me uninvested. And that was the crux of the story of “Inherent Vice.” At the end of the day, nothing really happened. Doc experiences little, if any, change.

Anderson blazed a trail through cinema similar to the works of the Coen Brothers. “The Big Lebowski” being the most obvious parallel. The Dude from “Lebowski” and Doc seem to be cut from the same cloth, as two weary souls actively seeking to stay out of trouble, but always finding themselves in some.

The soundtrack of the film was a perfect slice of 1970, complete with pieces from Neil Young and Sam Cook. Of all the soundtracks from films this year, this has been the best I’ve heard. “Vice did to 70’s music what “Guardians of the Galaxy” did for the 80s.

The film also featured several prominent actors beyond Phoenix, including Josh Brolin as the seemingly hard-edge Detective “Bigfoot” and Owen Wilson as Coy Harlingen. Reese Witherspoon also made a brief appearance, although her presence in the film could have been more substantial.

“Inherent Vice” was a particularly polarizing film. Praise for the film is certainly justified, but it’s a very specific crowd who will truly enjoy it, myself included. It warrants multiple watches, but don’t expect your average movie experience. In fact, don’t expect anything. If the viewer truly allows themselves to abandon their preconceptions, “Inherent Vice” is a magnificent piece.