While the film has an upside, a love story about a 25-year-old woman and 15-year-old boy left me on the outside looking in.
Please don’t get me wrong as this film by Director Paul Thomas Anderson has some funny, charming moments. To begin with, Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman, son of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, give delightful performances as young people fighting to find meaningful careers. On top of that Ms. Haim, playing Alana, had to fight off the romantic pursuit of Hoffman’s Gary Valentine, a high school boy.
Taking place in California’s San Fernando Valley in 1973, the film danced on the edge of absurdity as Valentine used unknown resources to start various businesses like selling water beds to opening a pinball parlor. Fortunately, it was saved as Alana flirted with Sean Penn’s William Holden where she nearly died falling off his motorcycle as he raced it completely intoxicated.
There were also some intriguing moments involving a hysterical shabbat dinner scene at her home and working for a mayoral candidate who was hiding the fact he was gay. The dinner scene was memorable given that her actual sisters and parents played those roles in the film.
Yet despite these enjoyable moments, the film kept running out of steam. As a lawyer who has spent over 40 years in the criminal defense arena, I couldn’t help thinking that Alana could have been prosecuted if she had sex with a 15-year-old boy!
That miserable thought was not saved by Bradley Cooper’s deranged role as Jon Peters, Barbara Streisand’s former lover. So, see this film, but remember, “curiosity killed the cinematic cat.”