"if you don't I shall cut my throat or go to the pictures"
A mere whisp of a film; a sort of realist dream. The film at once plays on some crude notion of Hollywood's as to what constituted naturalism or realism or whatever you choose to call it, on the mimetic properties of film, and also on the oneiricism inherent in cinema. Scattered throughout the film are at once clichés, plot contrivances and vagueries, and signifiers that speak towards an unreality (going west, doppelganger twins, the orphan from the streets, an inventor…
"God Evie, you are so sheltered."
"Then unshelter me."
one of the first things gary says to alana is that they aren't going to forget each other. many detractors of the film have cited (without having the vocabulary) the picaresque plot and the rotating cast of characters as making the film loose or poorly structured. but is that not the point? alana and gary are traipsing through a myriad of adventures featuring the zaniest of san fernando's citizens and the film is literally forgetting them, while our protagonists themselves…
like many of pta's later films, this is a film about two intertwined people, but i think it's also clear that this is more a film about alana than gary. it's a film about what it means to be desired by men, and what to do with that desire, and how to feel about it. even more than phantom thread, this is anderson making a movie about a woman and her feelings.