‘Licorice Pizza’ Review: California Dreaming and Scheming

These moments are cheap and stupid and add nothing to a movie that throws a lot into alternating scatter and laser effects: the OPEC oil crisis, waterbeds, the silhouette of palm trees against a night sky, and the kind of stars that no longer shine bright. One of the recurring rhythms Anderson gets best on “Licorice Pizza” is what it’s like to live in a corporate city like Los Angeles, where everyone is in business, seems to be or wants to be, so he still clings to Hollywood and its promise, be it Gary or the faded, mid-level stars lounging around the neighborhood joint. There, Sean Penn roars like a lush vintage studio while Tom Waits and other friends grin on the sidelines.

The entire time, Alana continues to fume and burn, constantly lighting Gary and the movie as brightly as the 4th of July fireworks, even as the story slides here and there and gains and loses momentum. The movie doesn’t always know what to do with Alana other than a dog behind her, and it’s a particular bummer that while Anderson turns her into an object of love and lust, he disappoints her sexual desire. Alana may be lost, but she is not dead, quite the opposite. She is a woman alive to the world and aware of her own attraction. But she is a blank libidinal, as virginal and confident as a teenage comedy heroine. She doesn’t even ask Gary to please her, not that he knows what to do.

Alana deserves better, damn it! Everybody knows it (well, not Gary), even the Hollywood producer based on the real Jon Peters (a sensational Bradley Cooper) knows it. Resplendently fuzzy, with a white shirt framing his chest hair, a kilo of cocaine (probably) on his nose, Peters appears after Gary starts a waterbed company. The business is a long story, not a particularly good one, but Peters, who is dating Barbra Streisand, wants a bed and he wants it now. This starts a tour de force sequence in which Alana, who is helping Gary handle things, naturally takes the wheel of a monster moving truck. She is a natural genius, Streisand, Andretti, a goddess from California, and, while braking, slowing down and moving forward, Alana gives you a glimpse of perfection and “Licorice Pizza” the driver you need.

Liquorice pizza
R rating for stereotypes, language, and mischief among teens. Duration: 2 hours 13 minutes. On cinemas.

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