There it was! Our first actual slice of winter. I hope you guys had a nice couple of “snow” days. I spent them curled up on the couch, popcorn in hand watching movies and generally trying to not have to go outside. But enough chit chat. Let’s get down to business.
This month, I decided to go with a pair of movies that have a tie to our Metroplex. Our first movie, Inherent Vice has Dallas native Owen Wilson in it and Big Men is concerned with a Dallas-based oil company and their exploration in Ghana. Yeah, I know, the link back to the Metroplex is weak on the first one but I really wanted to see it so do me a favor and just roll with me here.
Inherent Vice (2014) [R]
Before you watch Inherent Vice, ask yourself this question: do you prefer clear answers or are you okay with ambiguity? I hope you’re okay with the latter because you’re going to have to let go a little bit and let this movie wash over you.
The thing is, I actually sort of enjoy that. I don’t always need a movie to reveal all of its mysteries to me. I like to ponder and ruminate a little on them. Don’t worry though, Inherent Vice isn’t aimless. It just takes its time getting to where it is going.
Ostensibly, Inherent Vice is a detective movie set in early 1970s California. Larry Sportello, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is asked by his ex-girlfriend to help keep her current boyfriend out of a psychiatric hospital. He soon finds himself embroiled in a mystery that revolves around “the golden fang.” I won’t go into the plot any further so I don’t ruin it for you.
However, I would argue that Inherent Vice is really about families. Indeed, I find that all of the Paul Thomas Anderson movies have, in one way or another, been about family. In Boogie Nights, for example, while the plot was concerned with Dirk Diggler, I would argue that it was really about the “family” that formed around Mark Wahlberg’s character. They may not be about families in the traditional sense, but Punch-Drunk Love, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood, The Master . . . all of Anderson’s movies have strong, often non-traditional families that are instrumental to the plot.
In Inherent Vice, there are several families which are formed and reformed through out the course of the film. I found those dynamics to be the most interesting part of Inherent Vice, though the “detective” portion is also entertaining. The only thing that didn’t sit well with me are the attempts at comedy. Anderson himself said that Inherent Vice is “deeply written and beautifully profound stuff mixed in with just the best fart jokes and poop jokes that you can imagine.” Don’t get me wrong. I like slapstick and toilet humor. It just seemed forced and out of place here.
6.5 paws out of 10
Big Men (2013) [NR]
This one is a little tougher to track down than Inherent Vice. Here’s a link to the trailer and a place you can rent the movie.
Big Men is a documentary that follows a small, Dallas-based company through their discovery and development of the first commercial oil field off the coast of Ghana.
What’s interesting about that, you say? Director Rachel Boynton manages to find her way into the company of billionaires and armed rebels, presidents of companies and presidents of countries. It is a movie about gaining and exercising tremendous wealth and power but is also about the effects of that same wealth and power on those who do not wield it.
Boynton’s documentary asks the question, can people act for the greater good or does greed inevitably take over? Yet, the film manages to give a fair and balanced report of all of the players in the story.
Perhaps one of the most interesting things about Big Men is that it is so even-handed in its portrayal of the players. No one is painted as the bad guy. As the poster above says, everyone wants to be big. Everyone in the movie is trying to find a way to get a piece of the prize. And I think it is watching that play out that makes Big Men itself such a prize
7.5 paws out of 10