After Foxcatcher left me cold, here’s one that left me just baffled: Inherent Vice. I love everything Paul Thomas Anderson has made. Magnolia: magnificent. The Master: masterful. Let There Be Blood: bloody brilliant. He even managed to make a good Adam Sandler movie (Punch-Drunk Love).
It doesn’t help that Inherent Vice is from a novel by Thomas Pynchon. His books always seem as though they must have been a lot more fun to write than they are to read, and they are patently unadaptable. Cool stoner comedy can work – just look at The Big Lebowski – but I’m not positive this is even pitched as comedy. It’s certainly not funny.
The killing non-joke is that the entire movie is exposition. I’m not kidding – the entire movie consists of Joaquin Phoenix, wasted in both senses of the word as the stoner detective, going up to a succession of people and being talked at. Each one telling him some other thing about some other person we have no interest in and some other plot point that makes little sense and would hardly matter if it did.
It’s worse than that famous King Lear quote: “Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” There’s not even any fury, and the sound is so bad you can hardly hear what Joaquin is saying half the time. Worse, you suspect that’s a blessing.
How it garnered any raves I have no idea. Please, someone out there – tell me you liked it. And tell me why. I genuinely want to know.