Licorice Pizza (2021)

licorice pizza poster 2021 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Fun and different romantic comedy

Whimsical story with through themes doesn't always work

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Licorice Pizza

Studio:  MGM/Focus Features/Bon Creative

Genre(s):  Comedy/Drama/Romance

Release Date(s):  November 20, 2021 (Premiere)/November 26, 2021 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R

licorice pizza waterbed alana haim cooper hoffman

Waterbeds of love

Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) is a child star and an entrepreneur.  When he meets Alana Kane (Alana Haim) at his school’s class picture day, he realizes she is the one he wants to be with.  As Gary and Alana weave their way through the early 1970s world of Southern California, their relationship twists, turns, and spins.  Is Alana too old for Gary?  Is Gary’s ambition bigger than his desire for a relationship?

Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza is a period comedy drama romance.  Following Phantom Thread in 2017, the film was released to positive reviews and received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Directing, and Best Original Screenplay.

I love Paul Thomas Anderson.  His movies (if nothing else) are interesting and weirdly epic…even when they are simplistic like this film.  The title comes LP (nicknamed Licorice Pizza) and he came up with the story when he saw a younger guy hitting on an older girl…and questions what would have happened if she had taken him up on the offer (plus aspects of life of his friend Gary Goetzman who was a child star).  Like all Paul Thomas Anderson movies, the movie isn’t very straightforward, and it is a strange flowing film.

licorice pizza cooper hoffman child star gary valentine

Being a child star is tough…when you’re a giant

The story isn’t much of a story, but a series of vignettes.  The story is kind of how the experiences and events build the relationship.  It doesn’t necessarily feel like a logical relationship and that is a bit of the point.  Relationships aren’t necessarily logical, linear, or realistic.  You can argue this isn’t good storytelling, but it is more of a bunch of character studies.

Both Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman show huge potential.  Hoffman carries a lot of his father’s traits, but there is more of a bravado and confidence that Philip Seymour Hoffman didn’t always have.  Alana Haim jumps from singing to acting by being captivating as her namesake Alana.  Her sisters and parents play her sister and parents in the film, and it adds to the realism of Alana’s character.  They are supported by a plethora of guest stars including some movie star references like Sean Penn as a thinly veiled William Holden, Tom Waits as a stand in for director Mark Robeson, Christine Ebersole playing a Lucille Ball character, and Bradly Cooper as film producer Jon Peters.  The movie also has some blink and you’ll miss them type cameos by Maya Rudolph and John C. Reilly plus Leonardo DiCaprio’s father George DiCaprio.  I particularly like Harriet Sansom Harris who gives off real David Lynch movie vibes as Valentine’s talent agent Mary Grady.

licorice pizza jon peters bradley cooper gas station

Bradley Cooper says like this movie or you’re toast!

The movie looks great.  Anderson has a way of creating worlds and he creates a lush world.  Set in the San Fernando Valley, it is a world anchored in the 1970s where kids had more freedoms, parents were largely absent, and the world was in turmoil with Vietnam and gas shortages.  Anderson often utilizes music, but he shows a lot of control by not loading down Licorice Pizza with tons and tons of popular music

Licorice Pizza isn’t for everyone, and it is a movie that probably benefits from more than one viewing.  The movie feels like a merger of some of Anderson’s other films with a healthy dose of Punch-Drunk Love (which isn’t one of my favorite Anderson films).  Licorice Pizza shows another facet of Anderson’s take movies, and I’ll always welcome more.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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