I probably started every text about his film with this sentence, but it’s not a shame to repeat it – anyone who is a little more familiar with my work on this site knows that Paul Thomas Anderson is my favorite filmmaker. It is an author with encyclopedic knowledge about film who screens his ideas and visions and shoots quality and artistically valuable projects. Licorice Pizza is his ninth feature film and it is a coming-of-age romantic drama that earned him three Oscar nominations (Best Picture, Directing and Original Screenplay), which increases his final total of nominations to eleven (he has not won one yet).
The film is set in 1973 in Encino, a suburb of Los Angeles in the shadow of Hollywood. On one side of this romantic drama we have Alan Kane (musician Alan Haim in an impressive acting debut), a 25-year-old girl who has no idea what she wants from her life, but is doing her best to change it at least a little. On the other hand, 15-year-old Gary Valentine (the debut role of Cooper Hoffman, the son of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman), is a young actor with a sense of business who grabs potential trends and tries to make money on them while there are still opportunities.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s films have a lot in common (especially visually) and are usually quite different from most of what other filmmakers offer us. He is a master at presenting us with unusual stories, strange circumstances, confusing situations and unusual but nice characters, so Licorice Pizza in that sense it is definitely no exception. The location is perfect for Anderson’s retrospective story because life in Encin is a bit more relaxed than in Los Angeles itself, but movie stars regularly visit bars in the area – Hollywood’s influence is reflected in the fact that everyone is busy and everyone dreams of something better.
Gary is obviously more mature than the boy of his generation, but he has retained his characteristic adolescent clumsiness. He accepts uncertain business opportunities with extreme optimism and does not give up no matter how fleeting or uncertain the results are. She also applies this philosophy to Alana, a girl who takes various jobs because she has no idea what her career or her life will be like. After Gary’s unsuccessful charm, Alan agrees to go out with him because he probably doesn’t have a smarter job.
The fact that Gary is 15 years old has a solid legal and moral reason that their relationship never became a real romance. However, the atmosphere of the film makes us forget or overlook that fact. We gradually follow how their relationship becomes stronger, so in time they move away to return to the old way. Basically, we follow a typical adolescent, potentially unhealthy relationship that is not as important in itself as the feeling that the relationship gives them.
Alana follows Gary’s business ventures and gets involved in them, gets disappointed, looks for something other than Gary and somehow always finds his way to him again. Some of her adventures include Gary’s acting colleague, then the old Hollywood legend (Sean Penn) who literally leaves her behind to regain a piece of old fame and finally the mayoral candidate (Benny Safdi) who gives optimistic election promises and whose personal life is defined by cynicism. . The show is definitely stealing Bradley Cooper as an explosive film producer – scenes with him that include a flooded bedroom, oil shortages and vehicles with empty tanks are definitely the funniest in the film.
Anderson combines old and new Hollywood and all the time we feel that kind of nostalgia for a place we have never visited. It is obvious that the author did not care so much about the characters and the story as about conveying the feeling of nostalgia and affection for the past. The script is windingly structured, in the sense that something is happening on the screen all the time, but that everything is loosely connected or even that nothing concrete is happening. However, all those little moments feel like stories, anecdotes and memories that have been told many times so far. The whole film lives in the logic of half-remembered memories and almost certainly exaggerated moments in which specific emotions overpower everything else.
In essence, the whole scenario is presented through adventures, anecdotes and trivia characteristic of youth, as well as several isolated and occasionally overemphasized incidents. On the other hand, everything in this film is perfectly natural, while watching it I didn’t have the impression that something was superfluous or that something was added purely to make it more interesting or dramatic. The atmosphere is cheerful and I greeted the end of the film in a good mood, so I suggest you expect nothing from this film but to relax and immerse yourself in the world that Anderson decided to present to you.
Licorice Pizza is not the best film by Paul Thomas Anderson, but it has two impressive acting debuts and a lot of nostalgia, authenticity, youthful romance, retrospection and everything you can like if you are in the right movie mood. final grade: 8/10.
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