Licorice Pizza Review – IGN

Licorice Pizza debuts in theaters on November 26, 2021.

Licorice Pizza warns you in the title that, depending on your taste, there is a good chance that some of what is served will not be easily consumed. Despite the sunny loose leaves and authentic, accelerating needle falls of the time, the film is in keeping with Paul Thomas Anderson’s work of telling the stories of deeply troubled people. Some of this works, but other parts will probably leave you with a strange aftertaste.

Many will disagree with me, but the very premise of the “romance” at the heart of this film between 15-year-old Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) and 25-year-old Alana Kane (Alana Haim) is not cute, sweet, or charming. . It’s one, wrong, and two, extremely dysfunctional for this couple who live in the San Fernando Valley, adjacent to Hollywood. They meet at Gary’s high school on photo day, when he’s in line and she’s helping the photographer. They are immediately curious about each other while joking and flirting, and then Gary chases after them. Yet through it all, Anderson lays the foundation for how these two connect at a level of maturity that hasn’t graduated from basic recess urges.

Gary, played by Cooper Hoffman, the son of the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman, is a successful child actor, who has exercised his limited “fame” with a confidence that goes beyond his age. It has a lot of alpha energy for such a sprite, what we see is from having to navigate the egos of aging Hollywood stars and a revolving door of casting agents. It is in this space where he declares to his younger brother, the same day he meets her, that one day he will marry Alana. Again, what might be romantic for some is more than spooky for others.

Alana is the youngest daughter of a restrictive ex-Israeli soldier, who turns her wheels personally and professionally. There is a seething anger just below the surface of all your interactions, impatient with your luck in life and the straight paths that you are not interested in taking to achieve your goals of wealth and attention. Gary is the path she hasn’t taken, the one she knows she shouldn’t follow. It’s one that she blatantly does, but tips her foot in and then out, like an endless game of hokey pokey throughout the movie.

As the two aggressively flirt and get jealous, Gary wraps Alana in his scattered existence, first as his adult companion on his press tour to New York City, and then in a series of opportunistic deals in the Valley. Whether it’s ahead of the trend (waterbeds, acting gigs, pinball houses, whatever), when Gary sets his sights on it, he immediately succeeds at it. Their seemingly random adventures (all based on the true exploits of former child actor Gary Goetzman) take Gary, Alana, and a small group of young enablers through a summer in the Valley running breathlessly from plan to plan.

Throughout the crossover, Anderson captures time, 1973, with incredible precision. Anderson and co-cinematographer Michael Bauman create a landscape that includes the cast and location at that time with almost documentary precision. Faces are shot up close and natural so that all imperfections are captured, bringing out a sense of realism. All of that helps with the near-feverish dream getaways that come along the way. From the Hollywood alpha males of Sean Penn and Tom Waits setting up impromptu motorcycle jumps on a golf course to a surreal evening with Bradley Cooper’s over-the-top Jon Peter buying a waterbed, there’s nothing mundane about it. Gary and Alana experiment together.

What Anderson doesn’t give us is anyone’s inner life in the movie.


But everything becomes too halfway. What Anderson doesn’t give us is anyone’s inner life in the movie. Gary and Alana are totally forward-oriented people, ruled by their fickle nature and strange, almost magnetic attraction for each other. They tease and bait each other, hurt each other, and then fight back almost savagely. While Alana, in a couple of moments, verbally questions the weirdness of spending so much time with a guy like Gary, the movie isn’t interested in seeing either of them grow up. In fact, Anderson seems more interested in seeing how they attract and repel each other ad nauseam as they navigate an endless list of hideous men and women without agency.

Regardless of where Gary and Alana end up in the movie, the biggest barrier to entry in Licorice Pizza is the inherent evil of these two being together due to their ages. You can love the performances of Hoffman and Haim, who are so good, and enjoy your getaways, even if they last about 40 minutes longer. But you can also reject the extremely crooked moral compass that the movie mostly ignores. If the genres were switched, there would be no question how problematic this premise is. But maybe Anderson, in the end, is really stirring up our morale. Perhaps the broken and cynical playground that serves as the backdrop to your adventures is the canary in the coal mine for all this seemingly “romantic” adventure. I’d like to believe that’s Anderson’s true intention, to really make us think about how easily they persuade us to support a messy dynamic because it’s so cleverly framed as a Hollywood ending. And if not, there are not enough “no thanks” in the world to give this segment of life.

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