Suffice it to say that I land firmly on the thumbs-down side of this divisive L.A. noir as seen through a pair of aviator shades and a haze of pot smoke. It comes off more as an empty stylistic exercise than a trippy work of art to me.
Every new place Doc visits and every new face he meets reveals some piece of information that basically leads nowhere, and is swiftly forgotten when he encounters his next circumstance. The bigger picture of the mystery he's unraveling never materializes for us, or for him, and this is no accident.
Anderson's narrative progression is incoherent by design, in an attempt to evoke the burned-out fogginess that follows our central character around like a bad hangover. His mise en scene is its own kind of drug; DP Robert Elswitt's visuals make interesting juxtapositions with warm and cool colours, accompanied by beguiling musical choices on the soundtrack.
I'm sure PTA knows what he's doing, but I sure as hell don't. In his past works he's employed that hypnotic style to higher artistic ends than he does in Inherent Vice. The only purpose I can see for it is to confuse us as much as Doc. We understand no more about the character or his story by the conclusion (which takes waaaay to long to reach, by the way).
That's a real smoky excuse for a nonsensical film. Any piece of art that requires you to absorb substances in order to 'get it', isn't worth getting. What does it say about the filmmaking if you can only enjoy it with mind-altering chemicals?
If you happen to groove to this sort of thing and all its insane bewilderments, then more power to you. But I can only echo the sentiment of Martin Short's hopped-up dentist character from the film: “It's not groovy to be insane.”
** out of ****