Title – Licorice Pizza (2021)
Director – Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread)
Cast – Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Sean Penn, Tom Waits, Bradley Cooper, Benny Safdie
Plot – Teenage actor/entrepreneur Gary Valentine (Hoffman) strikes up a friendship with mid-20 year old Alana Kane (Haim) as the two go through life’s ups and downs together in San Fernando Valley of 1973.
“Do you like peanut butter sandwiches?”
Review by Eddie on 31/01/2022
Originally known in the early days as Soggy Bottom (a name that will make sense when you watch the film) but released under its official title inspired by LP Records and a famous American record store that operated in the 70’s and 80’s, Licorice Pizza is one of the most easily accessible films of Paul Thomas Anderson’s renowned filmography as he takes us back to the early 1970’s America where Cooper Hoffman’s young actor and budding businessman Gary Valentine falls head over heels for Alana Haim’s older but not necessarily wiser 25 year old Alana Kane.
Very similar in tone to Anderson’s underrated dark comedy Punch Drunk Love and feeling like it owes something to the aimless Richard Linklater classic Dazed and Confused and its less successful Everybody Get Some, Pizza forgoes a traditional narrative/story arc as Anderson takes us through a progression of scenes that don’t always play any real part in progressing the story along but thanks to its charming delivery, fine craftsmanship from behind and in front of the camera and some of 2021’s funniest moments, Pizza is a mostly entertaining and even heart warming tale of love, life and motorcycle stunts.
Key to the films success outside of Anderson’s typically assured direction, help with the cinematography from Michael Bauman and Johnny Greenwood’s sparring but moving score is both the chemistry and work of its two everyday seeming leads Hoffman and Haim, with the son of Philip and band member of group Haim creating a fantastic double two act as the friends battle their feelings, their own life up and downs and their wants in the surrounds of the San Fernando Valley.
Both debut performances, Anderson struck gold casting the two performers in his film and there’s many a joy to be found in Pizza whenever the two get to work off one another and while Hoffman gets shunned to the side the more the runtime wears on, the will they or wont they romance between Gary and Alana is as good as any of the comedic highlights found within the film which includes such memorable moments such as an extended Sean Penn cameo as actor Jack Holden, Bradley Cooper as the aggressive lady hunting Jon Peters or a random arrest for murder.
For all its many wins, Pizza can’t quite nail its run home, with its scattered plot and procession of randomness wearing thin as its unnecessary two hour plus runtime goes on so does our interest in the film as its best moments lay behind us, one can’t help but think if Pizza nailed its last 30 minutes, we would’ve had a genuine classic on our hands, a whimsical and bizarre new addition to the Paul Thomas Anderson collection of delights and eccentricities that is a joy but not quite a record you’ll want to spin over and over again.
Final Say –
2021’s funniest film and an often heartfelt one to boot, Licorice Pizza is a typically assured Paul Thomas Anderson film with a great central double act by its two debut performances but while it threatens to, it never becomes the classic it might’ve been with a more refined plot and a tighter edit.
4 pillow fights out of 5