First thing I want to say is that I think this movie is virtually un-spoilerable.
If someone put a gun to my head and asked me to give a play-by-play of IV’s plot I’d be a dead man. I’ll need to watch it at least seven more times with subtitles before I’ll have the vaguest idea what was going on (mod was right to see this 3 times in one day). Even beyond the plot the movie is difficult to describe. The word “beguiling” has been used and is actually pretty apt. It’s hard to put your finger on, but that’s maybe the point, because Doc has a hard time putting his finger on anything beyond his lost love for the duration of Inherent Vice’s running time. The beauty is that it doesn’t even matter if you’re able to follow the story — what was most compelling to me was the always unexpected, dissonant ways the characters Doc comes across behaved within their vignettes. A scene is moving “this way” and a character is moving “that way” instead. Their life, their full, fleshed out life, memory, experience, all that, is what you’re watching, a specific slice of it shown just because it happens to coincide with the plot’s need to show a character at that moment, but their helping to unravel the mystery doesn’t really seem to matter. We get to see them, instead. This has to have the best acting in any PT movie, often Cassavetes level, an unprecedented immediacy in comparison to his previous films, and the detective story seems more an excuse for observation, a way to get Doc mobile running around Los Angeles and into the presence of all these insane characters to fix his eyes on what’s-going-on-with-them as humans regardless of their part within the crime thread.
The Master was beautiful but visually this is another horse entirely, a step beyond. It LOOKS like a movie straight up made in the 70s even moreso than Boogie Nights, and if I was unfamiliar with all names involved and happened to see it I’d probably think it actually was. The lighting, the textures, the furniture…how did he do that? It boggles my mind. I wasn’t alive 40 years ago, but even if it isn’t period accurate it definitely doesn’t look “like now”, and it doesn’t look like a pastiche. I need to rewatch the trailer but I feel like it was color timed to appear more like a normal movie, the picture I saw up on that screen felt such a departure from it. Maybe the trailer difference was my imagination. Whatever.
Inherent Vice starts off like something in the tonal vein of Love Streams and morphs, with the momentum of a hawaiian slide guitar, into a mad, mindblowing labyrinth of cryptic doublespeak and double entendres. It’s perverted as hell, thank god (Thank GOD), and DENSE, so many things going on and to pick up on repeat viewings. It’s a slipstream of madcap antics and unbeatable melancholy. Who is who and why is why and how is what I couldn’t tell you. I don’t think I care that I couldn’t tell you. The acting is SO GOOD though, that even when you’re bewildered, when characters like Martin Short’s Doctor Blatnoyd are speaking almost incoherently but Doc seems right there with them and to have some clue what’s going on, you believe them so fully as people, their renderings feel so real, that it doesn’t feel like the scene doesn’t make sense, but that you’re privy to an actual event that took place and just haven’t cracked the code. I loved that. Even if I never make sense of it I could watch it again and again — an endless supply of deranged company to hang out with.
In some ways Inherent Vice feels like a fraternal twin of The Master, conveying similar skepticism about America’s ideals, about its skeptics alternatives, and of any answers in general, and like The Master, at its core the movie is about a love that got away - love the only thing that will save you, and love as a drug that’s worth taking because sobriety in this life without a point doesn’t seem to be worth it. Love as a drug…a loved life worth living…sobriety as a life without love…drugs as a substitute for that lacking love…something or other…
Ironic that this is the film of PT’s that has big studio backing behind it — WB is out of their minds. Yeah it has humor, but it’s his least commercial movie by a mile, and I wonder what the fuck is going to happen come day one of its wide release when word of mouth spreads. The trailer is SO OFF — I don’t even know what to relate the movie to as I’ve never seen anything else like it. Long Goodbye this Big Lebowski that — not even close. I’ll say this - the movie makes you feel like PT is the only real filmmaker out there right now making anything new or pushing any boundaries to show you something you haven’t seen before. You realize how rote everything else is in comparison, how many patterns most movies follow even in terms of “art film” style.
I bet Pubrick is going to write a book about it.
Going to have to edit this a bunch of times because my mind is still swirling and I have no idea how long it’s going to take me to wrap my head around something concrete. I know my comments are vague but atm I don’t know how to describe my feelings or really what I saw. The movie is so so original, and will rekindle your love of film and belief in its future possibilities even more than The Master, I think. IV goes into fever dream territory and never comes out.