Author Topic: Inherent Vice  (Read 2549 times)

Junior

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Inherent Vice
« on: January 09, 2015, 01:31:57 PM »
All that talk and I didn't mention two big things. The first is a positive: I loved the crap outta Joanna Newsom's narration. Superb. That scene where she's in the car on the way to wherever and then she disappears? Amazing.

A thing I didn't very much like: the sex scene between Doc and Shasta. Maybe it will work better upon a rewatch, which I do plan to do while the film is still in theaters, but that whole scene didn't work for me. I think I get the point of it, it just moved a little too slow for my tastes and kinda stopped the movie in its tracks while I was enjoying its slow but steady pace. Thoughts?
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ses

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Re: Inherent Vice
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2015, 06:15:57 PM »
I agree about the sex scene, it felt so slow and it dragged on.  Like you said, it felt slow in the slow moving movie.  I leaned over to my husband and said "More dinosaurs" which is our inside joke about when a movie needs to pick up the pace or move on (in reference to Jurassic Park).  Other than that, I really enjoyed the film, lots of laughs and just general giggles throughout.
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Junior

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Re: Inherent Vice
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2015, 06:59:37 PM »
I'm glad you agree. I've seen only praise for that scene and it kind of baffled me. I hope to watch it again this week, and I'll be sure to report back about how the scene works a second time around.
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Corndog

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Re: Inherent Vice
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2015, 09:09:54 PM »
Totally on the same page as both of you on the movie and the scene.
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Junior

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Re: Inherent Vice
« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2015, 12:08:19 AM »
Cool! We're the best people. Now, for the worst...

The Master (2012) 48/100 - It's a well shot film with many scenes looking exquisite, but PTA is laughing at anyone who thinks this is a masterpiece. I believe he decided to conduct his own little experiment and the audience was the case subject. Could he dangle pretty baubles, scene after scene after scene, with a haunting score, yet no cohesive storyline but because it's from PTA, would the critics and the hipsters lap it up like mother's milk?

Inherent Vice
* *

I've spent two days coming to grips with the fact that Paul Thomas Anderson isn't a director I care for. (Now I know how Antares feels when Tarantino releases a new one.) The seed was planted early into The Master and because of that, I was reluctant to take the ride here in the first place. I'm not saying he's not talented. I will always treasure Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood. Since then Anderson has been wasting his talents trying to find something deeper. He's trying to reinvent the wheel when i know he's capable of making a pretty great wheel.

His partner in crime, Joaquin Phoenix, has turned disconnected celebrity into an art. You can tell because this film has Owen Wilson, who has gone on record saying he'd like to get paid as much as possible to do as little as possible. Wilson is Basil Exposition compared to Phoenix's sleepy mouth. (Does Phoenix only play characters who mumble a lot, or is this a deliberate choice he makes every time? Will he ever try to play a character with diction?) Together Anderson and Phoenix nibble around the beautiful edges like two people who really don't care if this film has any effect on the viewer.

I hate the defense that the plot is not supposed to make sense. That the narrative incomprehensibility is part of the point, and not the point at all. Look, I watch a lot of Noir. I know the joy is in the characters and the atmosphere. For example, I don't give a rat's ass who ends up with the Maltese Falcon in the end. I'm glad Spade figures out who killed his partner, though I wasn't sure he would. There's a film where you can go on about the characters and the performances, but you can also follow Spade's drive every step of the way. The script here isn't clever in that way where a connection is made and you have the 'ah-ha' moment. It's more like a, "holy crap, I didn't think they were going to bother connecting that to anything." If the plot matters so little then why is there so much of it? Why is Doc hired by about a half-dozen people if we're not supposed to care about him solving any of them.

It's a story told poorly, so what do we get in return? Well, many say this is PTA's funniest film and there are moments where I thought that might happen. I really liked the character of Jade and her first scene surprised me in a couple of different ways. Also the scenes between Phoenix and Josh Brolin are pretty fun. Overall, watching Inherent Vice was much like watching Ocean's 12.

Ok, let's take this bit by bit. First bit! Antares' review of The Master, which I'm going to assume you quoted because you agree with it in reference to Inherent Vice. The main thrust of his segment up there are the words "no cohesive storyline," right? That's actually less of a problem in The Master than it is in Inherent Vice, though I had a bigger problem with the less-compelling-than-desirable plot in The Master than I did the meandering but sneakily straightforward plot in Inherent Vice. I've now forgotten what point I was trying to make with this so let's just move on.

It is hard for me to see Inherent Vice as PTA trying to reinvent the wheel when it isn't technically his wheel in the first place. This is his first mostly-straight adaptation, right? Any deeper meanings in Inherent Vice were, based on what I've read about it, already there in the source, and PTA's job seems to have been one of reduction rather than reinvention when it comes to the adapting, so I'm willing to give Pynchon some of the credit for the ideas about the loss of the dream of the 60s and the intermingling of counterculture and corporate/government agencies. Those elements are pretty clearly there in the movie and they are augmented by Doc's two major relationships with Shasta and Bigfoot. We'll get to Coy and his family later.

Seems a bit harsh to say that Anderson and Phoenix don't care if the movie has an effect on the audience. I've seen some reviews call the jokes in the movie too forced, a criticism I don't agree with, but if that's the case isn't it proof that they want the audience to at least laugh at the thing? Even with the aforementioned in this thread terrible sex scene the stuff with Shasta is genuinely sad, even the start of that scene really worked for me on that front. Like Inside Llewyn Davis, we start the movie after the main character has lost somebody very important to them, and the rest of the film should be viewed in that framework. Sure, there are hijinks in both films, but neither is less emotionally involving because of them. What I'm saying here is that if they didn't want me to get involved in the story or the characters, they failed tremendously.

And now, the meat of it. I knew you hated the idea that the plot doesn't have to matter when I said basically what you start that paragraph with, but I still think it is true. Even if the plot doesn't make sense (and I'll argue later that it does), why is that bad? You talk about who ends up with the Maltese Falcon and how that doesn't really matter when compared to Spade finding out who killed his partner. For Inherent Vice the character resolution parallel is reconnecting Coy with his family. I didn't think that would be such a triumphant moment but it really does work for me as a kind of happy case at the end of the world, or the world as Doc knows it. If I remember correctly, Coy and his wife were united by the free love ideas of the 60s and Coy basically ran away when he saw the consequences of their reckless behavior in his heroin baby. He returns when each of the three stops doing hard drugs and begins a new life with a credit card and everything. That's a definite shift in priorities and a shift away from the positives of one kind of thing (60s) to another (normal family life). And that's really the only positive thing that happens at the end. Bigfoot basically can't handle being a straight cop in a world so corrupted and twisted, and he can't handle Doc's free living so he goes kinda nuts and eats all the pot and ashes and shit. Doc, meanwhile, goes off into a hazy future. Is Shasta even really there in that last scene? Or is he riding around with his memory of her, something he'll never truly escape. Few of these character resolutions are as concrete as Spade's in The Maltese Falcon, but they do count. They do exist. The plot gets each of these characters to these points for very good reasons, and does so entertainingly.

As I said last night in chat, the plot actually isn't super hard to follow, at least once everything is said and done. Each scene serves a straightforward purpose of giving Doc information to act on, and most of that information is actually useful in uncovering a part of the (admittedly absurd but absurd for a good reason) scheme at the center of the film. There are a few red herrings as all mysteries have, of course. However, the actual A to B to C of it all is cohesive and coherent. The emotional arcs are equally easy to follow if you put a little effort into it.

At the end of it, I like Oceans 12, but it ain't got nothing on Inherent Vice. I am very happy that you wrote about it, even if you're wrong.
« Last Edit: January 12, 2015, 12:44:15 AM by Junior »
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jbissell

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Re: Inherent Vice
« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2015, 01:36:18 AM »
As I said last night in chat, the plot actually isn't super hard to follow, at least once everything is said and done. Each scene serves a straightforward purpose of giving Doc information to act on, and most of that information is actually useful in uncovering a part of the (admittedly absurd but absurd for a good reason) scheme at the center of the film. There are a few red herrings as all mysteries have, of course. However, the actual A to B to C of it all is cohesive and coherent. The emotional arcs are equally easy to follow if you put a little effort into it.

Yeah, I definitely wouldn't say the plot is nonsensical (I thought it was easier to follow in the film than the book, but that may just be my brain filling in some of the blanks left by the film) or that it "doesn't matter", but it's definitely the least interesting thing about the film. I didn't love it when I saw it last month (at least relative to my love for PTA's other work, it's still in my top 10 for 2014), but so many moments keep popping into my head that I'm excited to see it again now that it finally opened here. My favorite thing about his work is that after ever viewing, I get a little more out of the film, and I expect Vice to be no different.

mañana

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Re: Inherent Vice
« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2015, 02:44:18 PM »
I've now forgotten what point I was trying to make with this so let's just move on.
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I thought it was easier to follow in the film than the book, but that may just be my brain filling in some of the blanks
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alexanderthegreat

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Re: Inherent Vice
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2015, 02:00:50 PM »
I'd like to defend the sex scene (which I didn't understand or necessarily enjoy the first time I saw the film, but really appreciated upon repeat viewings):

It is essentially a scene of many intense, conflicting emotions for both Doc and Shasta. Shasta is finally revealing the nature of her relationship with Mickey Wolffman, which Doc has been questioning since the first scene and may help his figure out this case, but is painful for Doc (and possibly Shasta). Meanwhile, Shasta is essentially presenting herself to Doc which turns him on, but he's wary, since she's enigmatic and sad and what she's saying seems to be somewhat in conflict with the way she's acting. Then Shasta sadistically goads Doc by getting more and more turned on herself and getting closer to Doc and touching him, etc. while telling him about how she was used sexually by Mickey and others. Then they have sex, which is what Doc has been really wanting, but he's not an idiot and realizes that it won't transport them back to the bliss of their earlier relationship. Then she confirms this and tells him that it doesn't mean they're back together. It's essentially a sex scene of emotional sadomasochism.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2015, 02:02:59 PM by alexanderthegreat »

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Re: Inherent Vice
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2015, 02:09:06 PM »
Also, I have to say I have a big problem with any film criticism that attacks an actor or filmmaker that supposes the life choices of filmmaker or actor. To say that PTA or Phoenix are trying to mess with us or conduct some sort of social experiment because their films have moved in a more opaque or less plot-driven driven direction is ridiculous. It means nothing in terms of the quality of the film itself. Once a film is put out into the world, it is the audience's to judge. You're no longer reviewing a film, you're reviewing a person. A person we don't honestly know.

Not ridiculous. The film is now ours to appreciate or not. To interpret how we wish based on what we are bringing to the film. (David Lynch says that nobody has correctly figured out what Eraserhead is about, yet most people love it on their own terms.) My speculation is based entirely on the (lack of) quality I found in The Master and Inherent Vice. It's taking the discussion beyond the simple thumbs up or thumbs down by explaining why I have that opinion using any and all tools at my disposal. This includes speculation about what the director, actor etc. is trying to do/say/get at. Off/on subject, I want to know why Naomi Watts plays actresses who are barely keeping it together. I couldn't watch her in Birdman without thinking of Mulholland Dr. and Ellie Parker.
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alexanderthegreat

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Re: Inherent Vice
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2015, 07:46:09 PM »
Quote
Not ridiculous. The film is now ours to appreciate or not. To interpret how we wish based on what we are bringing to the film. (David Lynch says that nobody has correctly figured out what Eraserhead is about, yet most people love it on their own terms.) My speculation is based entirely on the (lack of) quality I found in The Master and Inherent Vice. It's taking the discussion beyond the simple thumbs up or thumbs down by explaining why I have that opinion using any and all tools at my disposal. This includes speculation about what the director, actor etc. is trying to do/say/get at. Off/on subject, I want to know why Naomi Watts plays actresses who are barely keeping it together. I couldn't watch her in Birdman without thinking of Mulholland Dr. and Ellie Parker.

Your Eraserhead example is exactly my point. Because we don't understand the original intend of the filmmaker but still enjoy our own interpretation of the film, is our appreciation invalid? I would say absolutely not.

And I'm not trying to say that a critic should not acknowledge any outside influences on his/her experience, but when one begins using the perceived character of an artist as a criticism of a work, that's where I have a problem. Saying, PTA intended this, therefore a film lacks quality, is problematic to say the least. If that speculation is based on the films, then talk about that. Even if The Master and/or Inherent Vice were completely incomprehensible (which I don't believe they are), it seems to me that there's a large leap to get to: he's just messing with us.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2015, 07:48:01 PM by alexanderthegreat »