Thank the lord for the smoking ban. Watching Inherent Vice took us back to the days when you returned from the pub and dumped all your clothes, right down to your pants, straight in the washing basket, such was their reek.
It’s Los Angeles, 1970. Larry ‘Doc’ Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is a private eye in a groovy, whiskered, 1970’s LA kind of way. He receives clients at a local medical clinic (hence the ‘Doc’ – geddit?) while smoking dope, chills on his couch with kooky girls in bikinis while smoking dope, drives his car around a bit while smoking dope. Frankly, how he even ties his shoelaces let alone solves cases after smoking all that dope is quite beyond The Sloth, but we are naive in such matters.
Doc’s hazy fug is rudely interrupted with a visit from ex-girlfriend Shasta (Katherine Waterston) who is worried a plot is afoot to wrongly inter her current squeeze, rich (married) real estate tycoon Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts) into a looney bin. Still holding a candle for Shasta Doc agrees to investigate but, before he can even spark up another joint, both Mickey and Shasta herself disappear.
What follows is a rambling, psychedelic, shaggy dog story that meanders merrily through random plot lines, red herrings and dead ends with the shambolic laissez faire of Doc himself. A tip off from a local prostitute that the ‘Golden Fang’ is involved could refer to a consortium of cocaine snorting, tax-dodging dentists, a Chinese sailing boat or a drugs cartel. A dead musician may still be alive and may or may not be a police informant or student activist. Doc himself is being tailed by angry, chocolate dipped banana munching, flat topped cop Christian “Bigfoot” Bjornsen (Josh Brolin – a comic delight) whose ire towards Doc may be concealing deeper feelings.
Inherent Vice is an inherently strange thing – a crime thriller with an utterly nonsensical plot, a noir that is baked in California sunshine (and just baked). We suggest you don’t even attempt to make sense of it, instead just sit back and savour the trippy kaleidoscope of surreal and wonderfully comic characters. Groovy baby.
UK release 30 January 2015