Arthouse Reviews: Inherent Vice

By ArtHouse Crouch End, 15 Feb 2015

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Before you book your ticket at Arthouse for Inherent Vice here’s what you have to do. Bake yourself up a humungous batch of Mary Jane brownies, take them in with you and start munching. From the moment his dodgy ex (a fantastic Katherine Waterston) appears in her Country Jo and the Fish T-shirt and as the convoluted plot unfolds you’ll be right there with Doc (Joaquin Phoenix on top form) as he fumbles his way through the intricacies of early seventies LA law enforcement.
 
Doc is a private investigator, in the mould of Raymond Chandler’s Marlow back in the fifties or even Columbo (bless him) in the eighties. All the boxes are ticked – the rambling beach house, the love-hate relationship with the LAPD, the tricky love life involving several glamorous if dangerous cipher ex’s, the beat up car, the crazy cop mate (a hilarious Josh Brolin), various lowlifes and trailer trash, assorted rich and powerful crooks and their glamorous and dangerous wives and daughters, and even a pair of baddies so patently bad-ass they have great big swastikas tattooed on their faces.
 
So far, so predictable. But Thomas Pynchon is never going to make this too easy. For Doc’s a hippy private investigator and as such is seen to ingest industrial quantities of finest marijuana (and the rest) before he can get his brain in gear. As a consequence the unfolding of the plot is seen through a narcotic fug. And what a contorted plot it is. Joycean in its ramifications, humorous and witty, it’s best to surrender and go along for the ride.
 
You know what they say about the Sixties, if you can remember them, man, you weren’t there. Never was a truer word spoken. This is a great movie. It made this viewer at least come over all nostalgic. On the other hand, it made my viewing companions nauseous at the gratuitous exposure of female flesh and the blatant sexism of so-called ‘free love’. Nostalgia for the demise of hippydom. Hurrah for the arrival of feminism!