Monday, January 11, 2016

Inherent Vice

Year 8, Day 11 - 1/11/16 - Movie #2,211

BEFORE: It's amazing how one not-so-great film can make me question a whole chain.  Did I really need to watch "Turbo"?  A great film, on the other hand, will make me feel perfectly justified in following a series of actor links, so I'm really just now looking for the next great film to erase all lingering doubts.  Like, should I have followed the Samuel L. Jackson link out of "Turbo", instead of "Inherent Vice", another film with Maya Rudolph? 

Plus, I only had things scheduled through mid-March, I figured I'd get through February and then re-assess.  But that's just not good enough, so I've been tinkering with the chain again over the last few nights, and early this morning I finally worked out a chain that will get me to the next big tent-pole movie, the next movie I want to see in theaters, which will be "Batman v. Superman".  Now I have a way to get there, so I can sleep more soundly.  Essentially, it's a framework, and it doesn't include everything, because after that film I'll still be watching movies, and I'll have to somehow get to "Captain America: Civil War". But I guess now I'll worry about that in March - maybe getting to "Exodus: God & Kings" in time for Passover is the next challenge.

I still have to go through the new films at the bottom of the list, to see if they need to be added to the framework, but at least I've got a plan now that will take me through to mid-April.  Plus I can put something aside for Mother's Day, 4th of July, back to school, and I even have a couple things for Halloween already.  So it goes.  It's a great metaphor for life, you make a plan you can live with, and then try and stick to it.  Sometimes you have to rebuild everything from square one, but you try to minimize those cases.

But I still have to deal with going from a silly animated kids film to a dark crime film (I'm assuming).  That type of whiplash is going to be par for the course here in the clean-up year, I'm afraid.  The only other animated films I have are about Superman or Batman, and I'd like to save those to go with "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice".  

This essentially means that I'm going to sit out this Oscar season - I got lucky last year and managed to see "Birdman" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel" before the awards were given out, and then at least I felt I had a dog in the fight.  I saw a few 2015 films in theaters 2015, most notably "Star Wars: The Force Awakens", but there's nothing else being talked about as an Oscar contender that I feel I need to rush out and see.  Maybe "The Martian", but that's about it.  So again, I'm just going to try and stick to my plan.  Unless I decide to change it again.  

(Damn, maybe I should have gone to see "The Martian" right after "Interstellar", because that would have worked thematically, and Jessica Chastain would have carried over.  But then I wouldn't have been able to link from "The Wolf of Wall Street" to "The Artist", and my schedule would have been off by one.  C'est la vie. Maybe I can link from "Serenity" to "The Martian" because they both have Chiwetel Ejiofor in them.  Or from "Fantastic Four" because they both have Kate Mara.)

THE PLOT:  In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles private investigator Larry "Doc" Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.

AFTER: I guess if I'm looking for a thematic link, I could point out that "Turbo" and "Inherent Vice" both take place in the seedier parts of Los Angeles, just in different years.  And drugs are prominent in both storylines, with TONS of marijuana in this film, and the nitrous oxide essentially being a performance-enhancing drug in "Turbo".  That still seems weird for a film aimed at kids.  

"Inherent Vice" came off to me as kind of a weird mix between "L.A. Confidential" and "The Big Lebowski", only not as funny.  I'm also seeing a similarity to "Harper", a film I watched last August, and that in turn reminded me of Season 2 of "True Detective", which I was watching at the time.  Both of those were set in L.A. and featured a policeman or private detective investigating a rich person's disappearance, and touched on issues of immigration, shady land deals, and strange cults.  I'm starting to get an overall vibe about life in Los Angeles, and when I put these films together, it's a weird place that I sure don't want to live in.  

Speaking of cults, I could sort of see "Inherent Vice" becoming a cult film, especially with all the pot-smoking.  Now that it's legal in a few states, this could really tap in to a pop culture vibe.  Plus it's quirky enough and oblique enough to really catch on with twenty-somethings, the way that films like "The Big Lebowski" and "Pulp Fiction" did.  

But, there are a few problems.  First off, it's a dark mystery/comedy, or at least that's how it pitches itself, but it's not really laugh-out-loud funny like "Lebowski" is.  Secondly, it's based on a Thomas Pynchon novel, and I haven't read any of his books, but I know he had a reputation for being long-winded and hard to understand.  Third problem, the film is two and a half hours long, and there's no real resolution to the mystery plot.  If you're going to have a character wander aimlessly around town and not get to the bottom of things, couldn't you have him do that in under two hours instead?  We all have stuff to do.  

I should point out that the director of this film also made "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia" - which were also ensemble filmsThere's a similar feeling to "Magnolia" here, which is a bit of a "WTF?" or "What does it all mean?" feeling.  Well, it means what you want it to mean, not everything has to be resolved - that's one way of looking at it.  But in a mystery, people usually want some answers about who did the crime.  

Looking back, I think maybe there WAS an answer in there somewhere.  I'm thinking of one particular scene, no spoilers here, but it was a character who specifically denied any wrongdoing, like "Why would I kill that guy?  I had no motive, except for this, that, and the other thing."  Am I crazy, or did that sound quite a bit like a confession?  I think maybe that person DID confess, in a roundabout way, and if the lead character weren't so stoned, he might have noticed it, too.  That's my take anyway. 

The lead character is only interesting to me because he was so high, so often.  Which usually means a character is very passive, he just wants to get high all the time and then lay around in his beach house.  But he's also a private investigator, which normally is a very active role - so he's a strange mix of passive and active, he seems to solve his cases almost by default, and in a few key scenes, I'm not sure if I was watching reality, or something like a drug-induced hallucination.

Which leads to an interesting question - did everything we see happen really happen, or are there some things that were part of his drug trips?  People seem to drift into Doc's house while he's stoned - are any of those characters imaginary?  That could also help this film catch on with the kids, if someone wants to go back and check for things that don't really make sense (and there are a few) and try and explain them by saying, "Oh, that character's not real." which would make this resemble a couple of other cult films I could mention.  But until then, I have to judge the film that I watched, which seemed to go everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

OOH, no, wait, I've got it - Doc and Bigfoot are really the same person.  That's why they say the same thing at the same time in that scene near the end!  Bigfoot is married, but he has this secret beach house, where he goes to get stoned, and hang out with his girlfriend, and then when he's really high, he hallucinates that he's a hippie named Doc, and he goes around L.A. trying to solve crimes while he's baked out of his mind.  There, just spread that one around for me, and that's bound to get some people talking.  

Also starring Joaquin Phoenix (last seen in "Her"), Josh Brolin (last seen in "Guardians of the Galaxy"), Katherine Waterston (last seen in "Michael Clayton"), Joanna Newsom, Eric Roberts (last seen in "The Expendables"), Martin Short (last heard in "The Pebble and the Penguin"), Serena Scott Thomas, Benicio Del Toro (also last seen in "Guardians of the Galaxy"), Owen Wilson (last seen in "The Big Year"), Reese Witherspoon (last seen in "Mud"), Jena Malone (last seen in "Cold Mountain"), Jillian Bell (last seen in "22 Jump Street"), Martin Donovan, Jordan Christan Hearn, Michael Kenneth Williams (last seen in "12 Years a Slave"), Keith Jardine, Hong Chau, Peter McRobbie, Jefferson Mays, with cameos from Anders Holm (last seen in "Neighbors"), Stephen Wiig.

RATING: 4 out of 10 panacake-os

No comments:

Post a Comment