Have you ever been told a made up story by a very young child? They tend to start off well and you are initially impressed by their creativity but after a while they start to lose track. There are bits of other narratives in there which are vaguely familiar but can’t quite be placed and it quickly becomes a rambling stream of consciousness. Occasionally they’ll throw something in that will surprise you but it becomes increasingly hard to maintain your concentration. The tale keeps going off on seemingly irrelevant tangents, some of which are returned to and others just lost, and while you know there is some logic behind it all in the kid’s mind you just can’t follow it no matter how hard you try. You sit there smiling encouragingly but the thing feels like it is going on forever and there is no indication of when it will ever end.
That is exactly what watching Inherent Vice feels like.
Along with this there is some pretty gratuitous objectification of women.
Seriously, it is like they are doing it on purpose. When I was at university I studied the film theory of Laura Mulvey who argued that women in cinema were given qualities of what she called to-be-looked-at-ness. She asserted that too often the plot would halt just so females could be the subject of the male gaze. Around the same time I saw James Cameron’s True Lies and there was a bit in the middle where Jamie Lee Curtis was made to perform a striptease for no good reason whatsoever. I was convinced that the director had put this in as a direct reference to Laura Mulvey, it was just so obvious and so crass it had to be done deliberately.
There is something similar in Inherent Vice. I like many others only have a problem with nudity in films when it is unbalanced between the genders. If the man and the women both get their kit off as part of the story that is fine but if the lady is naked and the guy is dressed then that’s not equality is it. There is such a moment in this film and I have never seen anyone dress down less for a sex scene. The woman, Katherine Waterston, parades around in her birthday suit for about five minutes, rubbing herself provocatively with everything on show and when Joaquin Phoenix gets involved, I swear, he doesn’t even undo his zipper. I mean, come on! Seriously? I they trying to bug us?
There are things to enjoy in Inherent Vice. The characterisation is great, especially from Phoenix and Josh Brolin, and parts of it are quite funny but boy is it hard work!
The trailer made it look like some kind of quirky crime caper but that isn’t what it is at all and the whole thing is just so long. It’s no Get Shorty, it just needs to get shorter.