(director/writer: Paul Thomas Anderson; cinematographer: Paul Thomas Anderson/Michael Bauman; editor: Andy Jurgensen; music: Jonny Greenwood; cast: Emma Dumont (Brenda), Bradley Cooper (Jon Peters), Skyler Gisondo (Lance), Alana Haim (Alana Kane), Cooper Hoffman (Gary Valentine), Tom Waits (Rex Blau), Sean Penn (Jack Holden), Harriet Harris (Mary Grady), John C. Reilly (Fred Gwynne), John Michael Higgins (Jerry Frick), Maya Rudolph (Gale), Christine Ebersole (Lucille Doolittle), Mary Elizabeth Ellis (Mom Anita); Runtime: 133; MPAA Rating: R; producers; Paul Thomas Anderson, Sara Murphy, Adam Somner: MGM/UA release; 2021)
“It’s a wonderful film, one that puts a smile on your face.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The title is derived from a now out of business Southern California record chain.
Paul Thomas Anderson (“Anima”/”Jujun”) is the auteur of this unique, free-spirited and whimsical coming-of-age film that is a hoot. One of the esteemed filmmaker’s better films.
Cooper Hoffman (the son of the late Seymour Philip Hoffman) plays Gary Valentine, a 15-year-old enterprising kid in 1973, in California’s San Fernando Valley. He’s a charmer and smooth talker, who starts a trendy side-line business after running a p.r. firm for local restaurants and with that money opens a water bed shop called Soggy Bottoms.
At school, Gary meets the 25-year-old Alana (Alana Haim, a member of the Haim sisters music trio), a yearbook photographer on campus to take the high school photos for the company she works for, and he gets her number (even if she’s reluctant at first). This leads to an unlikely romance between them, that never quite takes hold but also never quite ends.
Alana is going through a depressing period, as she dreads turning 30 with no career in the works, no marriageable men in sight and is still living with her parents.
Stars in cameos include Tom Waits, Sean Penn, John C. Reilly, Maya Rudolph and Bradley Cooper (hysterically playing Barbra Streisand’s ex Jon Peters).
There’s nostalgia for that period, bad memories of the scoundrel in the WH and of the shock-effects of the OPEC oil embargo, but mostly it’s about a time of youthful energy and getting your feet under you as you take some swings when stepping onto the world stage.
It’s a wonderful film, one that puts a smile on your face and might make you shake your head remembering what you did when you found your mojo and went for it in the name of youthful freedom.
REVIEWED ON 11/28/2021 GRADE: A-