Licorice Pizza Review: Paul Thomas Anderson serves up the perfect teen drama

Cooper Hoffman, Alana Haim, and Bradley Cooper all joined the stands of the PTA’s greatest performances in an ode to the Nixon-era Encino.


Gary Valentine 15 years old, Alana Kane “25” but in the air quotes basically let her say anything it might say on her final dream ticket out of Encino, and they last first crossed the road on a pale 1973 morning in the San Fernando Valley at a strange time in history when Old Hollywood and New Hollywood began to overlap. Bing Crosby is still alive even though Jim Morrison is dead, and it seems like everyone is the same age because no one really knows what time really means anymore.

They met on yearbook day at the local high school, and Alana – working as an assistant to a skilled photographer – walked up to Gary with a mirror in hand, only to find that he was hustling with a full face. This bum is less concerned with final appearance than he is with first impressions. Gary begins attacking Alana with the unfathomable desire of a teenage boy and the empty courage of someone who doesn’t think anyone will take him seriously. He plays out a lot of word of mouth about being a child actor, but flirts as if he were being interviewed by William F. Buckley on an episode of “Firing Line” (“Firing Line Now”). too much reality in the picture” is just one option in a cute, marathon meeting throbbing with electric jokes).

When Alana called out to him (“you’re 12,” she said, determining the age he played on TV), Gary responded by asking her to meet him for a drink later. Like so many reeling friendships that follow – and like most scenes in the film that are breathtaking, intoxicating, and utterly hilarious to watch along with – it’s hard to tell if it’s a date or a dare.

Maybe Gary was just throwing paint at the wall like he usually does when trying to sell people to his ideas, that’s all the time, or maybe a part of him could already sense that Alana will “buy” anything that is manly crap. throw her way because this woman with extreme beatings has been conditioned to believe that her money is not good for anything else. When she actually showed up at Tail o’ the Cock that night, it was as if Gary and Alana were calling each other bluffs. And so begins the truest relationship either of them has ever had.

Paul Thomas Anderson‘NS HolyfuckingshitIlovemovies-wonderful “Licorice pizza“Undeniably a coming-of-age movie – his first obvious contribution to a genre defined by the sort of sick self-invention and need for animal acceptance has also fueled it. each of his previous eight features – but it’s not really about growing up. For one thing, both of its potential customers have grown up (or at least powerfully aside) to a certain extent and just need someone to recognize who they’ve become in the process. . For another, there is always an extremely childish quality to Anderson’s oldest characters.

Gary Valentine may be younger than the likes of Reynolds Woodcock, Doc Sportello and Frank TJ Mackey, but he’s not necessarily less mature. As a goofball who takes care of his younger brother like his own and starts no less than three separate businesses throughout this movie with the help of Alana (some of which are moderately successful). right!), Gary understands how things work better than anyone. He is like the fish on the poker table who keeps winning hands because he doesn’t know enough to rush. “Just say yes,” he advises Alana while preparing her for an encounter with a half-baked talent agent played by “Phantom Thread” host Harriet Sansom Harris, “you can always learn how to do something once you’re in.”

Set in what is to be Anderson’s soon-to-be funniest film, the scene is a monument to the auteur’s extremely dry humorous wit, often bringing out the best laughs from characters who are themselves that they forget that other people can even see them. And from that scene, Gary’s words resonate like a worldview – a philosophy that Cooper Hoffman perfectly embodies in his screen debut. ground at any time.

Gary is a salesman, a performer, and always the cat that caught the canary (at least as far as Alana is known), but the real beauty of Hoffman’s performance is that he is. Playing this boy is more of a romantic than anything else. The old woman with the “very Jewish nose” is not only a mark to him, but also the reason why he loves life itself. She’s the reason why Gary founded a water bed startup after Leonardo DiCaprio’s father showed him their erotic potential, a venture that gives the palace this episodic memory of a series. the film feels like a plot (and stamps it with a deep connection to the Mattress Man, Hoffman’s late father Philip Seymour is memorably immortalized in “Punch-Drunk Love”) .

And she’s the reason why Gary discovers himself in a very close encounter with Barbra Streisand’s boyfriend sexual harm. He’s played by Bradley Cooper, tossing through his roles as future producer of “A Star Is Born” and producer Jon Peters of “Wild Wild West” as the mighty T-1000 in a string of events. so much so that its 20 minutes alone make “Licorice Pizza” one of the very best movies of the year.

Alana is also the reason why Gary ran past a decommissioned gas station during the 1973 oil crisis and yelled “it’s the end of the world!” with a stupid grin on his face in “Life on Mars?” by David Bowie dazzling on the soundtrack. In fact, he and Alana are constantly running towards each other whenever they are not in the same place, as if they were magnets pulled together by the natural energy of the universe. They may have collided with more violent force than in Anderson’s previous films (all of which find strange bedmates drawn to each other’s orbits in ways that seem easy to explain with physical objects). astronomy rather than narrative), but “Licorice Pizza” is a bit sweeter to torture a love story than “Ghost Thread” or “Drunk Love.” The sun was shining, the nights felt like indelible memories in the making, anything that happened seemed possible.

However, Adam Sandler’s film proves to be its closest relative, both in terms of purity of the lens and the frenzy of the bumper car for its direction. The camera in “Licorice Pizza” is an extension of the characters ahead and the movie they’re pinned in: It’s not always certain where it’s going, but it’s freaky to get there without stopping. , and fascinated with what it can find along the way. The differences from Anderson’s other films, however, are even more instructive than the similarities.

Anyone nostalgic for the “Magnolia” days will be delighted by the track shots and the long dolls he acquires here, evoking the joy of earlier work but without the biblical anxiety. This is, after all, a local story of two shipwrecked fishermen who collide while drifting in opposite directions between adolescence and adulthood, not a citywide mosaic. where people’s souls hang in balance and rain frogs fall from the sky.

And where “Punch-Drunk Love” is a glittering music box arranged with the frantic complexity of a Rube Goldberg machine, “Licorice Pizza” stays true to Anderson’s last-minute title – finding the groove. its and then rotates into place. Anderson’s script is too sharp and well-formed for this to feel like a hangout, but almost every scene is structured like a self-contained joke that ends up just right at the wrong point or come back to find it later (as we see with John Michael Higgins, the super racist restaurant owner in Japan, a cameo in a movie where everyone tries to run home).

The plot unfolds with the logic and snowballing dynamics of a stand-up comedy, as the seemingly important story beats fall to the cutting room floor in favor of flashy memories you never forget about first love. mine. We don’t see Gary deciding to give up his acting or volunteering – whatever that is – to shoot a campaign ad for city council candidate Joel Wachs (a hairy Benny Safdie). These only happen in the space between the cuts. Anderson, on the other hand, spends a few minutes on a scene in which Gary and Alana take turns calling each other and breathing wordlessly into the phone; not in a cute way, but like, “I’m pissed that we’ve crossed the line because it’s disgusting to pretend not to want to hang out with you every second of my stupid life”… that kind of thing too. pretty cute . As Aimee Mann once sang it: “Now that I’ve met you, are you opposed to never seeing each other again?”

Which finally brings us to Alana Kane – and the incredible first-time actress who catapulted her into the crowded stands of Anderson’s greatest characters. Some kind of woman in her twenties hanging out with a 15-year-old boy who just hit puberty? It is a question that “Licorice Pizza” is not based on the direct judgment or tsk-tsking that some people demand from their art today, but it is also the question Anderson asks every time. Alana appeared on the screen. Why was Lancaster Dodd attracted to an asshole like Freddie Quell? Why was Reynolds Woodcock staring at a humble country waitress named Alma? Why does someone as sweet as Lena Leonard need Barry Egan so much (song suggestion “Popeye”) he needs her, he needs, he needs her? Because it belongs to each other. Because the universe only calls often, and life is too short to hang up the phone.

That’s not to say “Licorice Pizza” excuses its May-December (or March-April) romance, or that the movie is even remotely what Gary would have liked. There is an obvious psychological attraction between him and Alana, but this movie is more concerned with how these characters belong together than with them perfecting that relationship in the classical sense. In fact, sex only becomes a less valuable form of expression as the series goes on, especially in the second half when Alana begins to work her way through a string of failed sex relationships. The most inspirational side of this side of “Eyes Wide Shut,” all with older men who see her as an accessory. (Sean Penn’s self-parody appearance as a replacement for William Holden builds like the comic series this movie alone has revived a few times.)

Through it all, Alana Haim makes her character a volatile blend of conviction and insecurity; Few have ever felt comfortable in their own skin, yet she would do anything to get rid of it. She’s a teapot hottie, sick of being trapped in the Valley but so tired of trying to find her way out that she feels unworthy to leave. “You’ll never miss me,” she told Gary shortly after they met, and it’s testament to the main performance of both these films that we can tell she’s wrong. . “Stop using time as an excuse,” Gary countered. In “Licorice Pizza,” time isn’t what keeps people apart – it’s the only thing that allows them to find each other in the first place. And this thrilling movie doesn’t waste a minute.

Grade A

United Artists Releasing will release “Licorice Pizza” in New York City and Los Angeles on Friday, November 26, and it will hit theaters nationwide on Christmas Day.

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https://www.indiewire.com/2021/11/licorice-pizza-review-paul-thomas-anderson-1234679385/ | Licorice Pizza Review: Paul Thomas Anderson serves up the perfect teen drama

Aila Slisco

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