“Inherent Vice” is a 1970s epic and a tribute to mafias and drugs; a two-hour-long hippie song and an allegory of visual jokes, colors, noise and unlikely situations that dance and mix together chaotically without any filter; a cocktail of supreme ingredients; the Cohen brothers, Tarantino and Pedro Almodovar. It embodies how Paul Thomas Anderson has moved up in the field of exploitative fiction.
From the director’s point of view, this film is quite a definitive one, which in no way came about by chance. You only need to watch previous works like “Boogie Nights” (1997) to realize how some visual settings (that have to do with sex and its mise-en-scène) are much more refined today. Or even the disturbing “There Will Be Blood” (2007), in which the omnipresence of violence was cast aside. And “Inherent Vice” is already quite violent; not because of the blood that is spilled, but because of the frenetic and always extreme way in which the story is told, the mere art of saying things without actually saying them, and doing it in such a way that when they are said, causes pain. In this way, throughout the film, Anderson is able to speak of his own evolution as a director.
In this circus of mafiosos and junkies — bland, noble and dark characters who are always outlaws — art direction dictates the real rules of the game. From the wallpaper to the leather furniture that rasps with the slightest movement (and this is where the spotlight falls on the work of the sound engineers), moving through the signs, clothes, objects and stamps, everything has something to say; everything makes up both the narration and the story; everything helps to immerse the spectator, not into the actual 1970s decade, but into the 1970s that Anderson envisions, through his fascination with the past.
The pictorial character of his story, played by Owen Wilson, reaches the climax during the scene of the Last Supper. The richness of the image and the texture of the characters in the film cover all the values of a single decade; it portrays triviality and the extent to which futility, clarity and darkness border on order and civilized society. This is a dramatic joke that is told time and time again without anyone getting tired of it. The script is a work of art. The balanced and fair dialogue dances between delirium and eloquence, ultimately blending together to practically sound like a melody.
Joaquin Phoenix gives us another unforgettable performance and a cult character, like many of the other cast members, whom Paul Thomas Anderson does not allow to realize their full potential.
“Inherent Vice” finds a creative and entertaining language in its poor taste to speak of drugs and love, tracing sometimes blurred crossings between good and bad, which open up an interesting debate on the state of society: typical Anderson.