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Inherent Vice by Jonny Greenwood (Review)

posted Jan 17, 2015, 9:14 PM by Koray Savas

Paul Thomas Anderson has always been a fairly challenging director when it comes to the narrative structure of film. His avant garde approach to storytelling is often immersive and harrowingly effective, thanks in large part to his audiovisual form. It was with 2007's There Will Be Blood that he was really able to capture audiences, which featured Radiohead musician Jonny Greenwood's first film score. The two collaborated again on 2012's The Master, and have reunited once more for Inherent Vice. Greenwood largely abandons the cold and methodical minimalistic tones of those two, and takes a more traditional approach to Inherent Vice.

The music here is very relaxed, much like the film's pacing and its protagonist Doc. Greenwood does a really great job of establishing the atmosphere and mood of the story. Inherent Vice is your typical noir, but there is a giant cast of weird characters, each with their own motive, that helps spice the formula up a bit. The centerpiece of the film and score is Shasta Fay Hepworth. Doc's ex-girlfriend, she is this pseudo-MacGuffin character who gets Doc involved in a large web of drug smuggling and housing development fraud. Her theme is an eloquent and fragile orchestral piece that slowly gets more complex as the music progresses. Between "Shasta," "Shasta Fay," and "Shasta Fay Hepworth," the theme develops and grows into a nice sort of love theme, but it never really leaves a mark. Greenword's more familiar stylings can be heard in "The Chryskylodon Institute" and "Adrian Prussia," with more interesting melodies in "Spooks" and "Under The Paving-Stones, The Beach!" The latter two being ruined by the inclusion of the film's narration throughout. All together the score only amounts to about 30 minutes of music, but how it weaves in between a few great 70s tunes helps create a fairly enjoyable, though unremarkable sonic world for the film.

Inherent Vice is Paul Thomas Anderson and Jonny Greenwood's third film together, but it is also the least interesting. There is certainly a lot of neat ideas working within the music, but it never amounts to anything more than atmospheric pacing. In that sense it is a great match for the film, which is overlong and rather mundane itself.