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Parents' Guide to

Inherent Vice

By S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 18+

Frustrating but fascinating drama has drugs, sex, language.

Movie R 2014 148 minutes
Inherent Vice Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 17+

Based on 3 parent reviews

age 18+

This title has:

Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
age 16+

Unfortunately, it's kind of an endurance test.

Oh, how it pains me to say this: Inherent Vice is boring. It really is dull. Now, it starts off very good. Its first 30 minutes or so are great, and the next 20 minutes are pretty good. It's around the 50-minute mark that this movie reaches the maximum number of plot contrivances for any movie ever, but it still goes on for almost another 95 minutes. I'm getting sick of writing stuff along the lines of "filmmakers need to know when to kill their darlings" because it not only makes me sound annoying, but the statement loses its gravity. But Inherent Vice is arguably past that. I will happily say that this movie is technically well made. Jonny Greenwood's score is probably the best thing about the movie, Joaquin Phoenix is predictably great, and the film looks very nice at times. It has a nice use of bold colors and a pseudo-psychedelic aesthetic at times, and fittingly so. The entire cast is very good, and they more or less act as the saving grace for this as an overall film. However, even these solid aspects are bogged down by a script and overall plot that's near-incomprehensible. There's a difference between challenging movies and frustrating movies, and this movie fits into the latter. It's not that it's reasonably complex, it's desperately complex. I remember a year ago when some people said that American Hustle became too contrived towards the end, but this is like that times twenty. Pair that with the 148-minute runtime, and this becomes a sort of chore to sit through, save for the occasional glimmers of solid humor. I do want to say this, though: the screening that I went to seemed to elicit a noticeable difference of reactions. There were two groups of people scattered throughout the packed crowd, one school laughing throughout and clapping at the end, and the other school really liking it at the beginning, only to grow antsy and bored. The stranger that sat next to me left the auditorium four times when he wasn't twiddling his thumbs for the latter half of the movie. I personally didn't know which opinion I'd have about this, but I know that a fair amount of people will know what they'll think of it before they see it. I tried to stay away from reviews and plot synopses that weren't in the trailers, so I didn't know a whole lot, personally. It's not like this pissed me off, but it definitely disappointed me. 4.7/10, lame, two thumbs down, below average, etc.

This title has:

Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (3 ):
Kids say (1 ):

Forget trying to understand INHERENT VICE; it won't work. (And if you manage it, please explain it to us.) It's a sticky toffee of a movie, packed with so many plots -- none of which entirely make sense -- that it gums up in the end. You won't know what exactly happened, and this will frustrate you to no end, not to mention mitigate your enjoyment. Consider yourself forewarned.

That said, director/auteur Paul Thomas Anderson paints a delightfully groovy vibe that smacks neither of cliche nor shortcuts. Say what you will about the movie, but Anderson clearly made it with intricate care, applying every layer with the laser focus of a master. Few directors can compare with how he builds atmosphere, time, and place, especially of this kind of Los Angeles: sun-drenched, woozy, and destabilizing. Few actors can stand up to Anderson's characters, but Phoenix does. Almost everyone else is window dressing.

Movie Details

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