JesseHawken’s review published on Letterboxd:
This feels like the movie he's been trying to make for his whole career and in fact this movie reminds me of the way his career started, pulling out all the stops and displaying his influences, making a splash as if he may not get another chance. But he's a more refined and older filmmaker now and the influences are more interesting, in particular the work of Hal Ashby, and this film shares that somewhat shaggy structure of his, the guy who also pioneered the "problematic age gap" bittersweet stoner comedy with Harold and Maude, a movie that deeply inspired Rushmore, which I think in turn deeply inspires Anderson here.
Gary Valentine is a Max Fischer type, an ambitious teenager who acts beyond his age and is a striver, a hustler, with an entourage of other young boys who he uses for his enterprises, who also relentlessly pursues an older woman who does become his friend but has to constantly fight him off and try to find more suitable (in age only) partners. But in a lot of ways this is Alana Haim's movie anyway, she's been chosen for deeply psychological reasons by the director (she's the daughter of a high school teacher he was fixated on as a teen) and this amazing blend of his seventies San Fernando Valley memories, the stories told by his friend Gary the character is modelled on, and the showbiz gossip Anderson was exposed to as a kid from the world of his father Ernie (whose voice we even hear on tv at one point, one of the main sounds of the seventies) makes for an immersive film experience.
This movie is pure vibes, Alana Haim is amazing, everything feels right, some deep cut showbiz gossip stuff like Lucille Ball being a tyrant, or an extended section about a vaguely sleazy actor named "Jack" Holden with Sean Penn... perfect needledrops and art direction, it's why we watch movies, all directors should get to make a blank check period piece about their own childhoods , just like Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, which this film sort of seems like a response to.
Pure cinema, my favourite film of 2021.