Paul Thomas Anderson’s new movie is a love story set in 1973, and much too fascinating and complex to be referred to as “coming-of-age”. A grinningly fast-talking 15-year-old boy meets a bored 25-year-old lady who works as assistant to a photographer taking footage for the high-school yearbook. She is in equal elements amused, intrigued and depressed when this child begins hitting on her and he or she realises that she is someway thinking about him.
Anderson makes wonderful film stars of his two newcomers. Cooper Hoffman, son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, is eerily assured as Gary Valentine, a heavy-set child with iffy pores and skin whose child-actor profession in TV and films is coming to an finish, and is due to this fact turning his numerous side-hustles into the primary occasion, working his personal cockamamie firm promoting waterbeds. Alana Haim, of the pop band Haim, is great because the completely exasperated Alana Kane, a younger lady with Barbra Streisand’s magnificence and charisma; acceptable, maybe, as Streisand’s notoriously quick-tempered onetime boyfriend Jon Peters is performed by Bradley Cooper in a walk-on function, as one in every of Gary’s dissatisfied waterbed clients.
The love between Gary and Alana, if like it is, doesn’t run easy. Alana breaks Gary’s coronary heart by holding palms with one other little one actor hardly older than he’s; Gary infuriates Alana by placing the strikes on a woman his personal age. Alana retaliates by flirting with ageing film star Jack Holden (Sean Penn), presumably based mostly on William Holden (why not simply make him William Holden?) after which uptight political candidate Joel Wachs (Benny Safdie). However everyone knows, even when we will scarcely consider it, the place that is heading. And this hypnotically attractive, humorous, romantic film freewheels its approach from scene to scene, from character to character, from set piece to set piece, with absolute mastery. You float and ripple round it as if on a waterbed. However each informal line, kiss, vehicle experience, setup and joke is a pleasure.