A breezier, looser and freer experience than Paul Thomas Anderson's previous features. Similarly in the vein of Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Licorice Pizza essentially let’s you hang out in its lead characters world (which is clearly a nostalgic and favourable one of PTA’s) for just over 2 hours. The friendship, romance and simultaneously edgy, yet welcoming tone of the proceedings, coupled with the excellent performances and technical craft make this a great first release of the year, despite its choppy structure and overlong runtime.
Written by Jack Ransom
Paul Thomas Anderson’s new coming of age feature, Licorice Pizza, tells the story of Alana Kane (Alana Haim) and Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) growing up, running around and experiencing the treacherous navigation of first love in the San Fernando Valley, 1973.
The core of the film circles around the strange yet sweet relationship between Alana & Gary. She is in her mid-20’s, stuck in a dead end job and not knowing what to do with her life, he is a 15 year old actor, with boundless enthusiasm, confidence and a keen eye for money-making. The pair’s energetic dedication to each of their jobs (from water bed selling, politics, acting and pinball arcades), schemes, family and friends, keeps the film constantly moving, and it only begins to feel slightly too long in the third act, due to a slight barrage of subplots and late character introductions. There have been a few negative reactions to the romantic/sexual tension between the pair (due to the age gap), but honestly in the context of the film it never feels creepy or uncomfortable and works effectively for this story.
Alana Haim’s Alana is a down to Earth, simultaneously anxious yet snarky, witty and flirty presence, whose chemistry with Cooper Hoffman’s optimistic, relentless, simultaneously mature and immature nature is incredibly realistic, charming and biting at times. Bradley Cooper and Sean Penn are clearly having a lot of fun in their minor supporting roles, especially the former whose character is an absolute lunatic.
PTA’s direction is superb. Frequent long takes, gliding camera pans, slick editing and beautifully framed shots that glisten with lens flare and immerse you in authenticity, thanks to the brilliant set design, lighting and cinematography. The soundtrack also absolutely rules. The Doors, David Bowie, Paul McCartney & The Wings and more bring so much to their implemented scenes and fit the time setting appropriately.
Licorice Pizza is a funny, sweet and lighthearted watch that is a great way to kick off cinema in 2022. An infectious attitude, standout performances, frequently impressive and immersive technical elements, soundtrack and visuals absolutely nail the enjoyability factor. However the jumpy structure and overlong runtime (towards the final act) are noticeable.