A ship sails somewhere in the distance, out in the Pacific Ocean, the last hurrah of a movement forward for humanity, set to return to shore as a bastion of a new order, one savvier, more covertly destructive than any before, a reaction to positive action. Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice fizzles softly, a solitary spliff, the last of its kind, its embers bitterly charring one's fingertips in a desperate denial of change. Change for the worse, as conservatism claws into California, a legitimate corruption to combat the illegitimate corruption that has only challenged the status quo, and otherwise done no true harm. Joaquin Phoenix's Doc Sportello sidles through the state, in solemnity, in alarm, in grief, his burnt-out brain realising the ineffectiveness of resistance, now that the suits have taken over the show. No personal victory, and here they are only small victories, can erase the sour tang of a society of intolerance built over a society of tolerance. This is a melancholy film, made more so by the often jarring juxtaposition of said melancholy with Anderson's absurdism, quirky little bursts of sentience through the foggy stupor. He's crafted Inherent Vice as its own leisurely trip, wherein the utmost attention is required in order to follow the intricacies of a plot that won't seem to sit still; it's merely circling itself, showing a different face to its full shape each time its orbit comes into contact with your stationary soul. The full image of it, in the end, is one of a changed world, changed for the worse, the only thing resembling genuine contentment now a new set of teeth and a handsome, stable nuclear family. The details of Anderson's design, from the soundtrack that resides mostly in the background, as though tuned out by the sound of some narcotic or another spinning through your system, to the sunstroked cinematography, are impressive in the moment; in retrospect, it seems rather crude to remark on their quality. Their perceptible reality is too painful a reminder of what once was - better just to light up a blunt and forget it all.