Upon first glance, Inherent Vice may not seem to possess the epic scope of director Paul Thomas Anderson’s sprawling There Will Be Blood or The Master. But maybe that’s just the hazy, Los Angeles sunshine that’s getting in your eyes, since Inherent Vice, recently released on Blu-ray and DVD, is a trip that’s definitely worth taking.
Based on Thomas Pynchon’s novel, Inherent Vice centers on Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix), a stoned out of his mind private eye who wiles his days away at a Los Angeles oceanside community (the fictional Gordita Beach) of the early 1970s. When his ex-girlfriend Shasta Fay (Katherine Waterston) unexpectedly drops by to talk about her latest (and dangerous) goings-on, Doc immediately gets embroiled in a case with epic complications.
Whether it’s dealing with a brazen (yet ultimately insecure) LAPD officer contact (Josh Brolin), or attempting to find the missing Shasta and a filthy rich businessman/land developer (Eric Roberts), Doc doesn’t seem too intimidated by the madness around him.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s fascination with the crippling grips of power is evident throughout Inherent Vice, and along with tackling the class/social struggles that pervades Los Angeles, Anderson also delves into Thomas Pynchon’s intricately woven dialogue and narrative structure (while also bringing his own aesthetic into the mix). The picture also deals with the inevitable displacement and “gentrification” of certain sections of Southern California, as evinced by this Inherent Vice voiceover from Joanna Newsom (she plays Doc’s friend Sortilege):
“The long, sad history of Los Angeles land use: Mexican families bounced out of Chavez Ravine to build Dodger Stadium, American Indians swept out of Bunker Hill for the Music Center . . . and now Tariq’s neighborhood, bulldozed aside for ‘Channel View Estates.'”
Though the trailer display’s the movie’s charming and humorous shaggy dog story, Inherent Vice is the type of film that requires at least one more viewing. After one is familiar with the story’s comedic beats and events, a second look into Inherent Vice may conjure up an altogether different analysis.
The Inherent Vice Blu-ray unfortunately doesn’t come with a Paul Thomas Anderson commentary, deleted scenes or a least a behind the scenes featurette – all you’ll get four different promotional clips on the film (“Los Paranoias,” “Shasta Fay,” “The Golden Fang,” “Everything In This Dream”).
But if you Los Angeles based, revisionist film noirs (i.e. The Long Goodbye, The Big Lebowski), Inherent Vice is still worth the purchase.
In the Soundcloud bar below, Katherine Waterston talks about the love story behind Inherent Vice and she explains why she didn’t see Shasta Fay as a typical “cruel femme fatale” character: