For months we have been seeing the trailers for Inherent Vice. And with a cast that includes Joaquin Phoenix (can someone please tell me the story behind his name), Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, and Reese Witherspoon, the movie is chocked full of talent. Joaquin Phoenix has been nominated for a Golden Globe for his role in the film.
Here's the plot in a nut shell - Set in California, you have "Doc" Sportello (Phoenix) a private eye. This is the psychedelic drug crazed 60's and 70's. There is a narrator throughout the film - Sortilege. She starts, "If it's a quiet night out at the beach and your ex-old lady suddenly out of nowhere shows up with a story about her current billionaire- developer boyfriend, and his wife, and her boyfriend, and a plot to kidnap the billionaire and throw him in a loony bin... "
Then Shasta (Katherine Waterston), "Doc"'s "ex-old lady says, "I need your help, Doc!
Sortilège continues narrating, "Maybe you should just look the other way." She pauses. "But if you're Doc, it may all start to get a little peculiar after that..."
And the story starts.
It is almost mad cap, well mad cap in a slow drug hazed way. The movie is based on a 2009 novel by Thomas Pynchon (which I have not read). As the film moves along, more bizarre characters start popping up. Josh Brolin plays an uptight straight laced crew cut police detective who always seems to be one move behind "Doc". My favorite character is Dr. Rudy Blatnoyd (played by Martin Short) the dentist dressed in a purple velvet suit. Reese Witherspoon plays Penny Kimbell, the Deputy D.A. and "Doc"s' current squeeze. And Owen Wilson plays Coy Harlington who seems to show up everywhere.
Maybe I am slow on the uptake but it took me a while to put all the characters together. The plot seemed very loose and the story made little sense the first half of the film. "Doc" seemed to be looking for the billionaire but the audience was not given enough information to follow along. About three quarters of the way through a new twist was introduced and suddenly it all began to come together. By this time I was looking around to see if anyone on my row was smoking anything funny they would share. Perhaps I needed to be on the same plane as "Doc" to comprehend.
When it was allover it was a good story, a little offbeat - OK, a lot offbeat. But what would one expect when you combine a stoner film with a plot that may or may not include drugs, a herion cartel, the Mason murders, the LAPD, a billionare, and other vices. It is funny. It is well written. And Phoenix does a great job playing "Doc".
Go see it, but keep in mind it may take a while for it all to come together. But, then it may not for you.