A young but ambitious actor pursues an older
woman in the San Fernando Valley in the 1970's.
Licorice Pizza (2021)
Written and Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Sean Penn,
Tom Waits, Bradley Cooper, Benny Safdie, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, John Michael Higgins, Skyler Gisondo, Christine Ebersole,
Maya Rudolph, Joseph Cross
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Director,
Best Original Screenplay
Paul Thomas Anderson's work speaks for itself at this point. From his debut with Hard Eight to his critically acclaimed films like Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood, and others. Licorice Pizza is clearly his most personal film. The title comes from a chain of San Fernando Valley record stores he frequented in his youth, and thus represents a time in his younger days when things were simpler and the future was whatever he wanted it to be. These themes are what he used to craft Licorice Pizza, and while the story may be fairly haphazard and there's a ton of plot threads that don't go anywhere, it doesn't really matter. Anderson's films are always about the journey.
Our heroes in this coming-of-age dramedy are Alana (Haim), a twenty-something Jewish girl who meets the charming but severely underage Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman, son of the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman, who makes his debut here). Gary is in love with Alana, and makes it known, but Alana is put off by the fact that he's 15. Of course, that hang-up goes away pretty fast, and Alana and Gary's odd relationship turns from friendship to rivalry to romance over the course of the film. Yes, it's a weird decision to romanticize statutory rape, so let's just get that out of the way. In typical PTA fashion, you've got a lot of memorable moments such as Bradley Cooper's insane Jon Peters and Sean Penn's psychotic Jack Holden.
Anderson is a filmmaker who doesn't need to have a traditional narrative because his characters are unforgettable, his soundtrack choices are perfect, and his visual style speaks for itself. Licorice Pizza is a good movie, even without a real story. At the very least, I'm very excited to see what Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman do next, as they are both about to have very interesting careers ahead of them.