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There are a handful of filmmakers whose movies are what I would consider unmissable. These are the auteurs who bring unique and compelling visions to the screen, telling engaging stories with visual flair and structural panache. We all have our pantheons.

Paul Thomas Anderson is part of mine.

Now, I’m hardly alone in this. The PTA hive has been a robust one pretty much from the beginning – he’s been on the cinephile radar since the late ‘90s. I’d put his three-film fun of “Hard Eight,” “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia” against any filmmaker’s first three features … and he just continued to get better.

One of the many qualities of PTA’s work that I’ve always admired is his willingness to pivot, to veer in different directions with the choices that he makes and the stories he chooses to tell. So I was obviously thrilled when I (finally – everyone kept things very close to the vest) learned that his newest film, “Licorice Pizza,” would revisit the San Fernando Valley and focus on telling a coming of age story in early ‘70s California.

The film – named after a now-shuttered chain of record stores – is a story of affection and ambition, a tale of misguided attraction and relentless hustle. It’s a story about what it means to actually grow up when you already view yourself as grown up, as well as some of the consequences that this sort of up-and-down maturation process can have. All of it rendered through Anderson’s exquisite eye and brought forth by an absolutely dynamite cast – a cast led by a central odd couple of sorts offering up performances that far outstrip what we might have reasonably expected.

Published in Movies

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