Astrology: Film: Review: ‘Inherent Vice’ (2014)

Warner Bros. Pictures

Warner Bros. Pictures

Inherent Vice, based on Thomas Pynchon’s druggy novel, isn’t just about people under the influence of a proverbial purple haze. Adapted and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, the movie is itself a purple haze, a cinematic rendering of archetypal Neptune’s perennial blurry fuzzed-out state and penchant for purple, which makes it literally impossible to pinpoint where one reality ends and another begins.

With no discernible plot, and with characters ultimately unknown to us and to themselves, Inherent Vice is a wisp of smoke that’s best appreciated precisely for its lack of specificity in all but one respect: its chronological time frame.

At the movie gets underway, Sortilège (Joanna Newsome), the spiritually inclined confidante of stoner private eye Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix), lays out the astrological pattern of the times. It’s 1970, we’re at the cusp of a new decade, and all the zonked out Neptunian energies of the planet have left the sign of Scorpio and entered Sagittarius.

Neptune, which dissolves boundaries, had been traveling through Scorpio during the sixties, when it helped break down rigid sexual (Scorpio) mores and, via hippie lifestyles, ground down the establishment. Its appearance in Sagittarius is tied to confronting illusions about what passes for the truth and the law (Sagittarius).

Not surprisingly, Inherent Vice, set in California surfing mecca Gordita Beach, swims in this cosmic pool of archetypal energies, with gauzy characters doing their best to keep upright. What sets the ball rolling is Shasta (Katherine Waterston), Doc’s ex-girlfriend, who lands on his doorstep and asks for his help. She suspects her married lover and sugar daddy (Eric Roberts) is the target of a conspiracy.

In trying to get to the bottom of this mystery – Neptune’s domain, so good luck with that – Doc learns there may be links to a drug cartel. Along the way, he connects with an assortment of oddballs, including coked up dentist Rudy (Martin Short), a close friend and saxophone player Coy (Owen Wilson) who was reported as missing, and a high-strung authoritarian cop named Bigfoot (Josh Brolin) who milks his flat-top persona for all it’s worth. Other actors appear in smaller roles (Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Kenneth Williams, Martin Donovan, Maya Rudolph).

This is not a movie of judiciously inserted plot points. Neptune doesn’t travel along a predictable trajectory. Instead, it oozes, like olive oil mobilizing over a tablecloth, never knowing where it should take up residency and evoking the movie’s Neptune-suffused and geographically named female character Japonica. She, like most of Gordita’s denizens, has a psyche that lives in an otherworldly realm.

Archetype: Addiction, Fantasy, Nebulousness, Mystery, Ego Dissolution

Astrology Archetype: Neptune (♆)

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