Inherent Vice & The Self Indulgence of Paul Thomas Anderson


The performances were beautifully bonkers, the music was bonkers in all the right ways, and the monologues were insanely bonkers.

I don’t think I’ve ever called a film bonkers before until I witnessed Inherent Vice.

The film had such a hazy and intense atmosphere that I felt like I was seeing this world through Phoenix’s reefer infused eyes.

However, I was never entertained and I feel like Paul Thomas Anderson is not making films for both him and the audience anymore.


He’s slowly becoming a director that makes films only for himself and seems to not give a care in the world about his audience.

Wait, how can I admire a movie so much yet not feel entertained by it? Easily.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s way of directing is a film buff’s wet dream. He utilizes everything beautiful and insane about filmmaking and puts it on full display.

From the way he frames a shot and the ways he pushes his actors are nothing short of awe inspiring. Every film of his feels like a film seminar for the price of a movie ticket.


If he was able to make scripts as strong as There Will Be Blood for each of his films, I would place him above Robert Altman, which he is always compared too.

But he’s no Altman yet and he will never be because PTA doesn’t like to be classified. He put an end to his ensemble films because he knew the risk of being labeled like that and quickly started focusing on lonely male protagonists.

Punch Drunk Love and The Master both feature two seemingly unlikeable loners who are whisked away on a journey of self-realization, with two insanely different outcomes.

Both are challenging, with Punch Drunk Love being the far more accessible one, but they both are phenomenal feats in direction.

But after enduring Inherent Vice, I can clearly see he wants to have his cake and eat it too.


Almost half of it felt like it was framed in hazy close ups and the rambling dialogue became bothersome instead of compelling before the halfway mark.

His fanbase, which I’m proudly part of, like to dig deep into his work and find the meanings and inspirations within it.

Inherent Vice isn’t one of those films I’m going to try to decipher anytime soon.

One of the things Anderson mentioned during his press tour was that this is a noir comedy. Well the noir here is presented well enough, but the comedy…not so much.

The humor isn’t broad, it’s just absurd characters that end up doing something so absurd, you don’t know whether to laugh or raise your eyebrows. Especially during Martin Sheen’s wacky cameo that left me bored instead of laughing.

Although Josh Brolin as an absurdly stern police officer inhaling a chocolate banana is hands down the funniest part.


There is a sense of fascination seeing him work within the noir and comedy genre, I just felt like there was a barrier between us and him.  The film is intrusive, but never inviting.

Anderson needing to have his cake and eating it too would be understandable if his last two films were popcorn entertainment, and wanted to do something that pushed his artistic sensibilities.

But after viewing Joaquin Pheonix drink paint thinner in 70mm in his film before this one, I can say for certain that he hasn’t strayed from making artistic choices.

At the end of the day, I fear the self indulgence that was present in his earlier films and ever present here, will become the new norm.


Now I can see why a few of my friends love this film, especially the humor and plot structure.  The boldness of it all can be very appealing and they grabbed hold of it, as I just stood back and admired from a distance.

Some say that it’s up to the audience to do most of the thinking, not for Anderson to hold our hands through each scene, which he didn’t do once in There Will Be Blood or The Master.

Here, we’re thrown into chaos and it feels like he’s laughing at us while Warner Bros (who probably thought he was making the next big thing) writes him a check.

Go see Inherent Vice if you want a film experience unlike any other, you won’t be disappointed.

However, if you are looking to be entertained by this experience, your experience may differ.

images via Warner Bros

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