Written by Yosra Osman

Arts

What’s it all about Joaquin?

Yosra Osman took a look at Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice and couldn’t make head nor tail of it.

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Joaquin Phoenix and Benicio del Toro in Inherent Vice.

In Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film, Joaquin Phoenix plays a weed-smoking private eye investigating the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend. That’s probably as much sense as I can make sense of the film’s plot.

Adapted from a Thomas Pynchon novel, Inherent Vice stars Phoenix as Doc Sportello, who gets a visit from his ex-girlfriend. Her new, married lover has disappeared and she believes his wife has arranged for him to go to the ‘loony bin’. Bizarre events ensue.

Let me start off by saying I love Anderson and I love Phoenix, so if anyone was going to love this film it was going to be me.

I definitely wanted to love it and there are definitely a lot of things to love about it. For one thing it looks great, the film is wonderfully atmospheric, with fantastic period detail and great costumes. Phoenix is absolutely brilliant as the perpetually perplexed stoner, blurry-eyed and spaced out, as he meanders through 1970s LA. He also rocks some tremendous sideburns. What’s more, the film is hilarious, with key sequences between Phoenix and a brutish Josh Brolin providing particular comic value.

All that aside, there was one real problem I had with Inherent Vice: I just didn’t understand what the hell was going on. Not just in terms of plot; I literally didn’t understand some of the words coming out of the characters’ mouths. I’m pretty sure I may as well have been smoking weed, because nothing was making any sense.

Apparently Pynchon’s novels are famous for having incomprehensible plots, which is fine, but if a film is around two and a half hours long and you lose me within the first hour, it becomes a struggle. I started to concentrate more on the discomfort of cinema seating to my posterior than I did on Phoenix, which I never thought would happen in my life.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate this film. I just didn’t get it. This might be intentional – it’s all some big stoner joke that I’m too unstoner-like to understand. Maybe I’m just a bit dim. Or maybe Inherent Vice requires a rewatch or two to fully understand what’s going on.

But whether I want to watch it again – well that’s a different question.

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Written by Yosra Osman

Yosra Osman is a mid-twenties film fan and self-confessed daydreamer of dangerous proportions