Although Inherent Vice is listed as a crime comedy, it isn’t funny. It isn’t serious either, even though the characters find themselves in dangerous or paranoid circumstances, the viewer isn’t toyed with emotionally.
Private Investigator Larry ‘Doc’ Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is high and smack in the middle of three cases that started with the disappearance of his former girlfriend Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston). She paid him a visit shortly before, to ask his help in preventing her boyfriend (property tycoon) Mickey Wolfmann, from being institutionalized. On top of the list, is tracing all the locations he frequently visited, starting with a brothel, where he is greeted by Jade (Hong Chau). Doc soon wakes up next to a fresh corpse with a line of LAPD cops longer than the lines of ‘blow’ on 1970’s table tops.
The plot seems to flow, but doesn’t play with pre-anticipated theatricalities. It’s more like one long drag as the story unfolds from the perspective a glassy-eyed anti-hero.
The Art Department and wardrobe did a good job in helping recreate a typical 70’s feel, without the stereotyped ‘flower power’ hippie palette. That aids the characters nicely. Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead keyboard player and guitarist) does the musical score that never overshadows or distract from the scene play.
Thomas Pynchon was rumored to make a cameo appearance in the film adaption of his novel, but remained unconfirmed as he didn’t want to draw attention. The spotlight was bright on both cast and crew at the Academy Awards and they were also awarded a Best Actor Golden Globe nomination. Inherent Vice is now listed among other cult films, like the Big Lebowski – which it is strongly reminiscent of.