Third Circle Vices
The cover of the possibly illegitimately obtained advance casing for Inherent Vice promoted it “for my consideration” this ensuing awards season. Being one of the internet’s most auspicious undocumented critics of film, politics, and the idiots who shape them, I accepted the call of duty against my preconceived biases and ended up considering it wholly unworthy of any awards save maybe those for talking in an engaging manner and altering one’s appearance for the sake of portraying a character. If you’re the kind of casual entertainment seeker who believes a well-constructed film doesn’t need anything more than recognizable stars dressing up in makeup and behaving eccentrically for the camera, or if you’re the kind of conceited hipster theoretician who likes digging around for allegorical profundities where no apparent meaning exists in the first place, then Inherent Vice will surely fulfill all your expectations. But what a sad culture we’ve devolved into that dressing up and talking funny alone have become instant qualifiers of high art.
Attempting to summarize the plot of Inherent Vice is an innately futile endeavor, as it was never meant to be followed in the first place and exists primarily as an excuse to herd heavily made-up celebrities into an overstuffed pet project wherein characters will enter and depart from the picture in the same scene. Cult director Paul Thomas Anderson starts us on a triple-headed missing person/murder case led by a hairy pothead Joaquin Phoenix, who will travel all over Los Angeles talking to various people and further entangling the narrative’s mystery with a deluge of names and places and enterprises we’ll never get to know in much detail because Phoenix’s encounters with these leads also consists purely of talking about other leads; so the cycle continues until he’s eventually reunited with his girlfriend Shasta, who spends what feels like an eternity sharing garbled whispers with him that’d be indecipherable enough even if her breasts weren’t exposed the duration of the unbearably long shot, climaxing in unbearably discomforting and unattractive wordplay – I mean intercourse. It’s not quite porn, but it’s not great storytelling either – just one of the elements of a really impotent and unfocused movie.
Judgment: Gluttony of the self, lust, and violence against time. But mostly gluttony of the self. “A drug councilor trying to talk kids into sensible drug use.”
Its basic chapters consist of Amy running away from Affleck, getting abducted by the pervy Neil Patrick Harris, who can’t really pass as a straight man, abusing herself to look as though she got raped, killing Neil Patrick Harris, returning to Affleck soaked in blood that neither she nor the hospital bothered to wash off, getting in the shower with fully naked Affleck (yes, it’s that “edgy”), and play-acting as if nothing ever happened betwixt them to warrant a permanent separation. Meanwhile, on Affleck’s side of the story, the feds are hot on his back for murdering his disloyal, vanishing spouse, who’s apparently acquired celebrity status by writing illustrated kiddie books, and Tyler Perry is a wisecracking lawyer who shows up every now and then to fulfill the studio’s diversity requirement. Tyler Perry thinks that Affleck should lie and play along with Amy’s games to minimize the sentence he’ll receive from the people who have no evidence against him whatsoever, while Affleck thinks his best defense is the truth. The movie starts to present some 21st-century themes about hashtag activism, fake rape claims stemming from vanity or embarrassment, and how the American media exploits made-up local murder dramas to perpetually distract the population from real-world problems, but author-screenwriter Gillian Flynn sensationalizes the story to such a point that you can’t judge any of it rationally.
Judgment: Wrath, heresy, seduction, lust, blood and gore, female playing traditionally male role, male exposing himself in traditionally female capacity, political correctness and gender equality in general. Sixth circle.
I like this scene because it points out how shallow and meaningless the word “African-American” has become in our society.