A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Paul Thomas Anderson's edgy, 1970s-set adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's novel is an irreverent, loopy, mind-bending movie unlike any other; it's part potboiler, part detective thriller, part stoner comedy, part head trip. Expect plenty of scenes showing characters getting very high (mostly on weed, but also cocaine), plus gun fights and shots showing corpses on the ground, sex with prostitutes, and a lingering scene in which a woman is shown fully naked, about to have sex. There's also lots of strong language, everything from "s--t" to "f--k."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is adrift on one of his peculiarly specific reveries in this movie based on Thomas Pynchon's novel when in walks ex-girlfriend Shasta (Katherine Waterston). She's all dressed up with seemingly nowhere to go but Doc's home; seems she's worried that her new beau, a married real estate developer (Eric Roberts), is about to be kidnapped by his wife and her boyfriend. Shasta's scared of more, too; she can't quite explain it, but her palpable anxiety is enough to convince Doc to help. Soon, Shasta disappears, and Doc sets out to find her. His investigation quickly takes him all over 1970s Los Angeles, where he becomes enmeshed in the dramas of a wide range of characters, including neo-Nazis, a musician (Owen Wilson) who's gone undercover, and a dentist (Martin Short) with a yearning for blow and very young women.
Is it any good?
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the role that drugs play in Inherent Vice. Does the movie make substance abuse look glamorous? Are there realistic consequences?
Are any of the characters role models? Are they intended to be? Do you find them sympathetic anyway? Why do you think that is?
Talk about how Anderson paints Los Angeles in the film: Is it its own character? How does the director make it so?
- In theaters: December 12, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: April 28, 2015
- Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Owen Wilson, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon
- Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 148 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: drug use throughout, sexual content, graphic nudity, language and some violence
For kids who love dramas
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.