Anderson’s latest is a romance about a teen boy wooing an older woman, starring two extraordinary newcomers and stuffed with fabulously hammy A-list cameos

As a title for this California pastoral from the sunlit west coast 1970s, Licorice Pizza is whimsically inspired. According to writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson, it’s actually the name of a now defunct SoCal record store chain. I was hoping he was making that up, like Anthony Burgess’s supposed cockney phrase “Queer as a clockwork orange”. But no. It really did exist, though the movie itself teeters between reality and nostalgist-hallucination.

This is a love story set in 1973 (Erich Segal’s novel is in fact slyly positioned in one shot), and far too interesting and complicated to be called “coming-of-age”. A grinningly fast-talking 15-year-old boy meets a bored 25-year-old woman who works as assistant to a photographer taking pictures for the high-school yearbook. She is in equal parts amused, intrigued and depressed when this kid starts hitting on her, and she realises that she is somehow interested in him.

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