inherent vice, initial thoughts

I saw the movie Inherent Vice today. I will write more about it (that’s a pretty safe prediction), but here are some initial thoughts.

I have no idea whether I should recommend it to anybody who is not obsessed with the book, but my hunch is is that it’s well worth seeing. I definitely enjoyed it. It passed the butt test (it’s around two and a half hours long and I had no idea while I was watching it that I was going to have a sore butt and an apparently pulled leg muscle when I stood 1up).

The best idea writer/director Paul Anderson had (as I knew the minute I heard about it) was when he figured out that: 1) the movie needed a narrator, 2) the narrator couldn’t be Doc (the protag) — for the same reason that the book is in third person limited, rather than first person, and 3) the narrator should be Sortil├Ęge, a minor character, an astrologer, Doc’s former secretary. #3 was the stroke of genius. There are a couple of times when Doc is driving somewhere and Sortil├Ęge is in the car with him, but when he arrives at his destination he’s alone. Was she astral traveling in his car? Was he just hallucinating her presence? Either would be possible.

Many things from the book are left out, which is good. That’s how you make a movie. So, I might miss the Vegas trip, or the songs, or most of the Gilligan’s Island references (or all of the Dark Shadows references), but that’s fine. My only complaint on that front is that, in several ways, the ending veers into sentimentality rather than romance and regret. The camera zooms in when it should be pulling back.

And, even with all the things which were left out, the story does zoom along a bit too fast in a few places, and Anderson turns this into a virtue, getting a laugh out of the day that a whole series of clients show up to hire Doc for cases which all, almost immediately, turn out to involve the same group of people.

That’s good storytelling — rather than try to conceal your story’s weaknesses (and all stories have them), turn them into positives.

More to come…

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