Inherent Vice: The Very Biased Review

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This review DOES NOT contain spoilers. In fact, I hope it helps you better understand the chaos that is Inherent Vice.

Have you ever felt like some piece of entertainment was made just for you? As someone who enjoys things that bore or confuse most other people (I am sure many of you can relate), I was shocked when I heard two of my niche obsessions were coming together to make something that would have a wide release: Thomas Pynchon, a master of postmodern literature, and Paul Thomas Anderson, a master of torturously beautiful filmmaking.

In general, adapting novels for the big screen is a huge risk when the author has such a Pynchon-simpsonsdedicated following. I, for one, despise the “book is better than the movie” conversation. They are such different mediums I prefer not to compare the two. With movies based on books, I tend to disregard the story when I am judging the movie. The filmmaker neither loses or gains points in regards to how closely they follow the story, or even if the story is interesting. Instead, the film earns its merits by how well it is able to make that story visually interesting. For example, books can take the time to explain the minutia of the impossibility of certain resolutions, while a dialog-based scene in a movie doing the same thing would be as unnatural as the de-masked villain explaining his evil plan as he is dragged away by the police. The filmmaker has to be able to give the full story without an “explanation scene.”

Of course the book will explain everything better than the film can, but what can make a film adaptation great is its ability to chop the script, leaving only what is necessary for the story and what the story represents. As someone who has read Inherent Vice multiple times, I can confidently say that Paul Thomas Anderson absolutely perfected the adaptation. Not only is the core of the story intact, he also managed to extract the slightly hazy, challenging essence of the prose. At this point I want to talk about how he managed to represent challenging prose in a visual medium, but I still have no idea how he did it. Although Inherent Vice is easier to follow than Pynchon’s masterpiece, Gravity’s Rainbow, it is still a story that demands your attention, as does the film.

joaquin copyI can imagine seeing the film without any pretext will turn many off. Recent reviews tend to start with a confession of confusion, but all the details you need are there on the screen, you just need to focus on everything. Not only do you have to remember all the characters that appear on screen (there are many), but also characters and additional vocalized plotlines that never appear. There are plots and character paths leading in every direction, and every piece is needed to see the whole picture. Like the lead character, Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix), you have to become something of a Private Investigator, listening for clues and mapping the connections on a mental white board.

To talk about it in any detail, you need to have some concept of the major players in the story, but I promise there are no spoilers. Doc, a perfect representation of the hippy scene in 1970’s California, is a Private Investigator who is challenged by his ex-girl to check in on a plot against a wealthy real estate guru named Mickey Wolfmann, who she happens to be fucking. Doc tries to use his PI connections to get ahead of the game to stop the plot, primarily a homicide detective “Bigfoot” Bjornson (Josh Brolin).

Doc and Bigfoot have a long history of crossing paths while working on cases, and their love/hate relationship is one of the highlights of the novel and movie. Their history provides a platform for the duo to take cheap shots at the other’s lifestyle (Doc being on the pro-drug side of the debate, and Bigfoot being a straightedge cop who has a floundering side career in Hollywood). When Doc’s ex-old lady and Wolfmann both go missing (not a spoiler), the pair take different paths, fueled by dissimilar motives, to find out what exactly, like, happened, man.

When the movie begins, you might be slightly annoyed by the narration (especially the tone of the voice). Inherent-Vice I can’t remember the last movie I watched that had so much narration throughout, but it serves as more than just a device to explain what is happening. In almost any other movie, I would see that as a cop-out, but the complexity of the story necessitates some omniscient input that can’t be provided through dialog. Like almost every word spoken in the movie, the narration is taken nearly word for word from the novel. Pynchon is known for his mastery of prose, and it seems that Anderson didn’t want that to go unseen in the film, so he brilliantly took a side character in the novel and gave her an extra part as the narrator. When the narrator isn’t assisting with the understanding of the plot, she is reading passages from the novel that help create the aura that Pynchon intended. It’s very lofty, scattered, and unsure of reality.

One of the keys to “getting” postmodern literature in general is understanding that what the story is about, isn’t truly what it’s about. However, at the same time, it isn’t the abstract symbolism that you would get with someone like Fitzgerald (seriously guys, what does the green light represent?). The story that Inherent Vice is telling is the story of a fading culture. How often do we hear the sigh of audible nostalgia by people who experienced the 60’s? Pynchon captures the zeitgeist of an era, when the good times are coming to an end. Bigfoot, a chronic hippy-lifestyle hater, is depicted as the force coming to erode Doc and his culture’s collective buzz. At the same time, we see a land developer destroying low-income neighborhoods for cookie-cutter homes, a president with no tolerance for lax lifestyles coming to power, and a shift from recreational and mind-opening drugs to a scene built on dependence. Behind this drug-hazed detective story lies a tragedy, the death of a perfect generation (or at least that is how people like Doc [and maybe Pynchon too, if we knew anything about him] saw it).

Compared to Anderson’s last two films (The Master and There Will Be Blood), Inherent Vice has a much different feel. The previous two were so cerebral and I am still trying to find the key that unlocks their true meanings, while Inherent Vice feels more forgiving to that end. It is also more forgiving in that the humor throughout the movie is palpable, over-the-top, and beautifully satirical.  Like any of his films, Inherent Vice requires an extra viewing (or reading), but the second time around will prove that the key was never hidden, if there even was one to begin with.

(Side note: I got through a whole review about Pynchon without talking about Paranoia? I should turn in my Postmodern Member’s Club Card)

(Images via, via, via. via)

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  • Edward #negrodMMXV

    I was going to stop in and say that I would read this review after I saw the film, but the first line

    This review DOES NOT contain spoilers. In fact, I hope it helps you better understand the chaos that is Inherent Vice

    convinced me it is Ok to read this review. I’d wouldn’t mind seeing more film reviews on here, cause movies >>>>>>

    There Will Be Blood >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    The Master >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    • The thing I like about movies is that they always provide an entertaining contrast to my boring and uneventful real life.

    • Stanley

      I couldn’t get a long with The Master. 🙁

      • YourLogicIsFlushed

        The Master was such a mindfuck, I didn’t like it as I was watching it, but like a week later I started to appreciate it. No idea why.

        • Tyree

          Mindfuck indeed. I really have to watch that again. I’m not sure exactly where I stand with the movie.

        • Nordling Rites ov Kahlua

          I watched it today, which makes THIS alla mindfuck. I’m not sure I’ve gotten fully, but I sure as hell loved it.

          • YourLogicIsFlushed

            It seems like that is what the consensus is. Maybe it is not meant to be get, and it kicked ass at doing that haha

      • CyberneticOrganism

        Guh I hated that film, here’s me watching it.

      • Edward #negrodMMXV

        Some of these guys were quicker on the ball than me (cause work, lol) but it might be worth a rewatch – of course you might not like it again the second time. I saw it in the theaters and loved it. It stayed with me for awhile after. Of course I like cults though and Philip Seymour Hoffman was a beast.

        • Synecdoche, New York>>>>>>>

          • Edward #negrodMMXV

            Fuck I haven’t seen that either. It’s in my Netflix queue but I had a movie at home for I shit you not like six months. I got the Twin Peaks movie at home now, still need to watch.

          • CT-12

            It’s garbage, get ready to cry. Either way, every Twin Peaks fan has to watch it.

          • Edward #negrodMMXV

            Sad. Truthfully I haven’t been that excited to watch it which is why I haven’t gotten around to it, yet. I need to though because I want to get my next disc, lol. I liked the first season of the show more than the second.

          • CT-12

            Yeah, I liked what they were able to do with the season after finding out who kills Laura (they originally weren’t planning to reveal it, but their ratings were so low the network forced them to, hence the 8 million cliffhangers at the end of the season as well), but some storylines are really stupid. Ben Horne’s “Civil War” storyline is so fucking stupid I just skip it.

        • Stanley

          The acting performances were superb, but the movie was so frustrating/infuriating to watch. I dunno if I could sit through it again. Sometimes you just have to call it quits and move on. It’s not like there aren’t another 150 movies in my queue to watch. 🙂

          • Edward #negrodMMXV

            I hardly ever watch movies at home now due to time constraints and a bunch of other stuff I can do at home. I wanna see Inherent Vice in the theater and I did catch about three or four movies this winter in the theater so far.

          • Stanley

            I hardly ever watch movies at the theatre. I really like the medium but all the other ‘viewers’ get on my tits. It’s like going to your favorite bar for a quiet pint only to find it completely packed and then getting a drink spilled on you.

          • Nordling Rites ov Kahlua

            Day shows>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
            One or two people and me in the hall.

          • Stanley

            I’ve tried going in the daytime for that very reason but the fuckin’ snow-blind effect when you walk out into the daylight is punishing.

    • CT-12

      Fuck man, I’ve meant to do another GSTW post, got caught up in an album review I still haven’t posted for private reasons. I’ve got a ton of movies in the bank though that I’d like to do some write-ups for on here. I’mma get on it when I have the time.

      • Edward #negrodMMXV

        I have a story going live in the early slot tomorrow. I have been super busy almost to the point of being crushed by real life, haha. That is why for the time being I am focusing on shorter posts, like when I start one I shoot for about 500 words. I’m gonna try that for a little while!

        I’d like to read your next GSTW post I enjoyed the last one.

        Reviewing albums is the hardest kind of writing for me still so far.

        • CT-12

          Good idea man, might have to adopt that method myself

  • Janitor Jim Dvggan

    I saw this last Saturday. It was such a good movie.

  • Tyree

    Great write up Mr. Cage. There are some really classic scenes in this; especially a certain scene at the end of the movie.

    Martin Short’s character in this was pretty fucking amazing too.

    • YourLogicIsFlushed

      That scene at the end was so unexpected, actually not even in the novel, but was perfect regardless.

      • Tyree

        It was so goddamn odd and funny. Brilliant!

        Paul Thomas Anderson >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

  • CyberneticOrganism
  • I’m looking forward to checking this out.
    RE: postmodern novels adapted to film – I’m still so very angry that I wasted 15 bucks and two hours watching Cosmopolis

    • YourLogicIsFlushed

      I will not watch that. Robert Pattinson <<<<<<<>>>>>>

      • White Noise >>>>>>>

        • YourLogicIsFlushed

          End Zone is pretty neat too, didn’t love Underworld though.

        • White Noise, the movie featuring Michael Keaton > (yeah just one)

          • Tyree

            Damn, I need to watch Birdman still.

          • YourLogicIsFlushed

            Yes. Everyone needs to watch Birdman.

          • Edward #negrodMMXV

            Fuck, me too. Fuck.

          • Tyree

            Same with Gone Girl and Nightcrawler.

          • Edward #negrodMMXV

            I want to read Gone Girl – in fact it might be the next book I read cause I wanna start reading books again.

            Nightcrawler is legitimately the best film I have seen in awhile.

          • Tyree

            Under the Skin is my favorite film from this year. It’s going to be hard totop that one for me.

          • Edward #negrodMMXV

            I want to see that one too, fuck.

          • YourLogicIsFlushed

            You guys just named my top three need-to-see-still movies, good work haha.

          • CT-12

            This is sort of out of nowhere, but do you (or anyone else looking at this comment) read many graphic novels/comics? I’m friends with a huge nerd family who have done all the legwork to finding good shit and they always send me home with a bunch of graphic novels to read. If you’re interested, I’d totally recommend the “Rachel Rising” series as well as “Nailbiter”, good stuff.

          • Edward #negrodMMXV

            I read a few comics. My younger brother is super into them so he lends / forces comics on me sometimes. I have read a couple classics lately, namely The Dark Knight Returns, and I just finished a four issue series called Cryptozoic Man. I want to read Preacher. My brother will lend me that after I finish a couple other ones he is making me read. I’ll look into the two you mentioned!

          • CT-12

            Never heard of Cryptozoic Man or Preacher, I’ll have to check em out!

          • YourLogicIsFlushed

            God I hate that that is a thing. I never saw it, but I was so excited after I finished the novel that there was a movie version. So disappointed when I realized they had nothing to do with each other.

    • Edward #negrodMMXV

      Joe we talked about this before but Cosmopolis was one of the worst films I have ever seen.

      • Same man. Just… god I hated everything about that movie.

        • Edward #negrodMMXV

          A Dangerous Method wasn’t quite as good as Cronenberg’s previous two films, but it was obviously way different and pretty trill in its own right. Viggo did a sweet Sigmund Freud.

          • I haven’t seen that one. I recently watched Existenz. Shit was sweet, bruh.

          • Edward #negrodMMXV

            I haven’t seen Existenz.

            Ever seen Crash? The car crash sex one not the racism one. It was very weird but actually pretty good. I dunno if Cronenberg directed it but it had the feel of one of his films I think.

          • HA! I saw the shitty racism one. I’ve heard good things about the car crash one though.

          • Edward #negrodMMXV

            I thought the racism Crash was decent, lol

          • Nordling Rites ov Kahlua

            Are they related? Other than name.

          • Edward #negrodMMXV

            Nope, just the title. They are vastly different in every other way.

          • Nordling Rites ov Kahlua

            Right.

          • CT-12

            I thought the racism was aight. Also, car sex “Crash” is a little too pretentious/goofy for me, but I may have to give it another shot.

          • Have you read the book? It’s a little more…graphic, but real good.

          • Edward #negrodMMXV

            I have not.

          • Tyree
          • I can’t think of a single instance of a movie being more WILDLY DIFFERENT than a book.

          • Yeah, I dug the book a LOT more than the movie but the movie’s fun anyway. Off YourLogicIsFlushed’s point, I think Cronenberg was able to do a good job communicating the vibe of the book visually even while basically disregarding a lot of key points from the “plot.”

          • Tyree

            Absolutely, he was the perfect man for the job.

          • Edward #negrodMMXV

            I read Fight Club and I have to say based on damn weird the book was they did a good job with the film. The film is awesome anyways. I read the book afterwards.

          • YourLogicIsFlushed

            One of my favorite adaptations! I love that he could extrapolate all that nonsense from such a short novel

          • Edward #negrodMMXV

            I preferred Fight Club the book’s ending.

          • CT-12

            You ever dig any further into Chuck Palahniuk’s catalog? Dude’s one of (if not) my favorite author(s) of all time. Check out “Haunted” and “Rant” if you haven’t already.

          • Edward #negrodMMXV

            I’m familiar with more of his work, mostly stuff that was made into movies, but I dunno that I have read anything else by him.

          • CT-12

            Dude, you have to read Haunted, pretty sure it’s being made into a movie or miniseries sometime soon. It’s so worth the read man.

          • CT-12

            Hey man, just wanted to tell you that was a good review/analysis article thang! Always enjoy your posts.

          • YourLogicIsFlushed

            Thank you sir, much appreciated

          • Tyree
          • CyberneticOrganism

            GAH!

      • Tyree

        Not David Cronenberg’s high point.

        • Edward #negrodMMXV

          Quite honestly it may be his lowest. His kid did a pretty tight body horror flick called Antiviral.

          • Tyree

            Hmmmm, never heard of it.

          • Scrimm

        • Nordling Rites ov Kahlua

          D-Cro has an apparent mancrush on Robert P. He’s on Map to… too

          • Edward #negrodMMXV

            D-Cro? hahahaha

    • Nordling Rites ov Kahlua

      The book was good tho.

  • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

    Fuck movies, fuck sitting through them, fuck everything.

  • Guacamole Jim

    I’ve never even heard of this movie.

    Admitting am poser <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

    • I saw the poster in the local movie theater, but the poster scared me away

      • Guacamole Jim

        hahahaha that’s awesome.

        • because the neon knights and the stockings I thought it would be some of those heavily sexualized bad comedies lol

          • YourLogicIsFlushed

            It’s one of those movies that will fly under the radar for most people, unless you know ahead of time what the hell it’s all about.

          • well, now I got #ToiletBlessing to watch it!

          • Guacamole Jim

            I can see that! Plus it has Owen Wilson, which sends up some warning flags. I kinda want to watch it now though.

  • Nordling Rites ov Kahlua

    Now I want to see this movie. There will be… and Master were wonderful.

  • Matt Pike’s Sweaty Left Nipple

    Great review dude. I really want to see this movie now.
    Brb, checking NetFlix…

  • Stockhausen

    I’m very guilty of comparing books and movies based on them, but I can take the two on separate merits when it’s done the right way (The Shining). I’m going to make an extra point to read this book, then see the movie in my somewhat near future.

    Also, I generally liked Master, but it sort of fell on its face near the end.

    • Matt Pike’s Sweaty Left Nipple

      (^-^)
      …so did Seymour Hoffman. Ba-Dum Tissss!!
      OOOhhhh…. too soon..? Sorry. I’m terrible.

  • Hey guys,

    Check out the released tour dates for Fallujah and Archspire!

    GL

    http://www.metalinsider.net/touring/fallujah-announce-headlining-tour-in-march

    • BLVKKBEVRD

      No beast coast love

      • Nordling Rites ov Kahlua

        Of course not, the beasts scared them away.

      • Seriously. The closest location is Denver (18 hours). WTF

        GL

    • Come to Chicago fuckers!

    • DDubya.

      Loved that song you wrote, btw.

      • Thanks man. I still get a kick outta how lolbuttz it was. Hopefully you enjoyed the shout out!

        GL

      • Thanks man. I still get a kick outta how lolbuttz it was. Hopefully you enjoyed the shout out!

        GL

  • BLVKKBEVRD

    I really wanted to see this already. Will still wait til I can watch at home tho

  • Idk if you all are aware of this so, I’ll just leave it here https://soundcloud.com/centurymedia/morgoth-black-enemy

  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    I’ve yet to see a single PTA movie but I do plan on seeing this at some stage. Won’t be for a while though as I want to read the book first but I also want to read Pynchon in order and I’ve yet to finish Gravity’s Rainbow.

    • YourLogicIsFlushed

      Man I can talk about GR all day. If I wasn’t at work I would.

      • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

        It’s one of my literary goals for this year. Loved V. and The Crying of Lot 49, but couldn’t quite find a spark of true likeability in GR to stop me from getting distracted. But its been a long time since I last attempted it and I’ve become rather more accustomed to difficult literature since then.

        • YourLogicIsFlushed

          It is a pain, the hook isn’t really until like 400 pages in, hell you don’t even know who the “main” character is until like 200. It’s so much easier to follow the second time around, once you know what to expect.

          • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

            Luckily I also have loads of collections of plays and short stories to read, so I figure if GR is getting me down I can switch to something a bit easier to get my mojo back before carrying on.

  • Akira Watts

    This makes me want to see the movie all the more. Inherent Vice is probably my least favorite Pynchon (which still puts it miles beyond most books), but everything I hear about this adaptation seems to show that PTA fucking nailed it. I suppose it’s too much to ask that he tackle Vineland?

    • YourLogicIsFlushed

      The movie might help your admiration for the book. I didn’t get much of the humor the first time I read it, but the second time and then seeing the movie right after was amazing.

  • DDubya.

    I drink your milkshake.

    • Tyree

      I drink it up!

      • Edward #negrodMMXV

        DRAAAAAAIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNAAAAAAAAGGGGGGEEEEE

      • DDubya.

        Fun fact. Joe Duplantier of Gojira growls “I drink your milkshake!” on one of Car Bomb’s songs.

    • CyberneticOrganism

      I broke you and I beat you.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g31y7SZ5Ego

  • zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    supposedly hollywood is controlled by harvey weinstein–with money from clinton—for wild..yet agenda 21 obeying “movies”—


    hollywood and
    all 3 of these vids are the same thing
    the illusion didnt last forever
    and the truth is revealed
    perfect–and the new sunrise
    —-
    all 3 at once
    1st vid mute
    2nd vidmute
    3rd vid 100%vol

    http://youtu.be/0baMsmuR29Q

    http://youtu.be/EOXKXHbBd3I

    http://youtu.be/M8BZYOsi2pA

  • Thanks for the review. I’m going to see this on Saturday and I’m looking foward to it. The prospect of this movie being confusing doesn’t bother me but probably will upset your typical Hollywood blockbuster movie goer type. Screw those people.