Licorice Pizza Movie Review
Paul Thomas Anderson’s golden, glittering “Licorice Pizza” in the San Fernando Valley of the 1970s is so dreamy,
And yet there is a vague undercurrent of danger lurking in that joyful, humorous joy. That’s the score from Anderson’s frequent collaborator, brilliant radiohead guitarist Johnny Greenwood, who has put you on the edge. It is in the searchlight outside the grand opening of a Ventura Boulevard Pinball Parlor, constantly pointing to the sky. And with brilliant supportive performances from Bradley Cooper and Shawn Penn, it’s going to be a break in big,both. Anything can happen day and night – but are you ready for it?
This is a place that Anderson has known well since his own childhood and this is where he lives today. His love for the valley is precise and clear, with its suburban expanse and indescribable strip malls. This is also the place of my youth — I grew up in Woodland Hills, just below 101 Freeway, where Licorice (As a kid, I used to drive across the street from Topanga Plaza to Topanga Canyon Boulevard in Canoga Park.) He took us on a tour of the area with some great, early films that put him on the map (“Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia”) but not With “pizza” he showed us a gentle scene. Anderson has used all the thrilling, muscular techniques he has applied to tell the trademark of his direction,
This is extremely unexpected from one moment to the next because Anderson skillfully navigates from irrational humor to gentle romance tonal shifts with a few valid action sequences. “Licorice pizza” means the best way: you never know where it’s going, but you can’t wait to find out where it will end, and you won’t want to end it when it’s over. Once the credit rolling was over, I didn’t want to get up from my seat and leave the theater, I got involved in the film’s relaxed, anxious spelling.
And Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman, both making their debut in the feature film, Anderson has given us the most glorious guide. “Licorice Pizza” will make them both superstars and deserves. Hoffman is the son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, whose long and fruitful relationship with Anderson has led to some defining tasks in his career, ranging from heartbreaking (“boogie nights”) to terrifying (“The Master”). Hoffman has a very different look and demeanor from his father – he has a contagious, boyish optimism – but he shares his father’s attractive screen presence. And Haim is a flat-out movie star. He has that “thing”: that bright, magnetic charisma that makes it impossible to take your eyes off him. The youngest of three sisters made up of indie rock band they have a long and fruitful relationship of their own with Anderson,
We didn’t even start discussing the plot, but then again, the plot isn’t really the point. Simply put, sees Haim’s Alana and Hoffman’s Gary running around the valley, starting different businesses, Reminiscent of Max Fisher in “Rushmore”, Gary takes all the adults he encounters seriously and treats him as an equal.
Although their ever-evolving relationship provides the structure of the film, “Licorice Pizza” is really about this young woman’s journey of self-discovery: trying different jobs and clothes, different priorities and personalities, and seeing what is appropriate. (Oscar-winning “Phantom Thread” costume designer Mark Bridges has vividly redesigned his look for each new situation.) The huge artistic instinct “licorice pizza” is just a part of the breath of fresh air. The hope for Alana is eternal, but the reality of life as a young woman in Los Angeles — hell, on earth nurtures her head. Maybe it’s an intrusive conversation with an agent when she’s thinking of becoming an actress. Or it’s a midnight motorcycle ride with a much older screen star (Penn, in the character of William Holden, becomes unusually charming). Cooper serves as a more obvious source of danger as an irresistible John Peters, a real-life hairdresser-turned-producer who dated Barbara
The presence of Peters here is extremely important through the breadth of Hollywood at this time and place. Gary reminded me of the many kids I grew up with: they had agents and headshots, they had to leave school early for auditions, they had parents who would run around town to pursue their dream of stardom. Gary just takes that initiative and turns it into a different endeavor, and Alana sees herself coming for the ride. A long tracking shot where Gary enters the Hollywood Palladium to launch his Waterbed company (something that Gottzman actually did) reminds me of both the beginning of “Boogie Nights” and the end of “Phantom Thread”. Anderson, again working as his own cinematographer (this time with Michael Bowman), impresses this moment and many more with a mixture of surprise and sadness.
And as always, he gets a lot of rights about this position and era. The details never end up being a kitchi caricature: a baby-blue rotating phone hanging on the kitchen wall, or the billboard of the rock radio station KMET above a gas station. Gary Sherman lives in Oaks, but in a decent, mid-century ranch-style home rather than a fancy neighborhood south of Boulevard. And the gas shortage that plagued this period is another source of excitement for these characters as they try to make their way to Earth. Anderson doesn’t put pressure on our heads for geopolitical reasons, but rather David Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” Show Gary running slowly after a long line of cars at the co-pumps. As a strong choice of music in the background.
And yet, a painful romantic tone comes back to the end, as well as the sensation that even though we didn’t end up anywhere in our wanderings, we just saw the best movie of the year.