MOVIE REVIEW: “Licorice Pizza” stars Alana Haim (Documentary Now! [TV series]), Cooper Hoffman, Mary Elizabeth Ellis (Masterminds , It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia [TV series]), Skyler Gisondo (Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, Vacation), John Michael Higgins (We Bought a Zoo, Pitch Perfect), Danielle Haim, Este Haim, Milo Herschlag, Bradley Cooper (American Sniper, Nightmare Alley), Tom Waits (Seven Psychopaths, Down by Law), Sean Penn (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Mystic River), Nate Mann (Masters of the Air [TV mini-series], Ray Donovan [TV series]), and Benny Safdie (Good Time, Person to Person). It is written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Punch-Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood).
Two young people navigate the perils of first love in the early 1970’s.
Boy howdy hey, a Best Picture nominee that’s up my alley!
I don’t know about you all, but I love the 60’s and 70’s in cinema. Whether it be the music, the wardrobe, the cars; I love it all and am instantly hooked when I see a film explore that era. Tarantino did it recently with “Once Upon a Time,” and now Paul Thomas Anderson gifts us “Licorice Pizza,” an unconventional story about two people falling in love in 1973.
Prior to seeing this in theaters, I was apprehensive. From what I was told, this would depict a romance between a teenager and an adult… something I’m not too fond of. It’s a touchy subject that can easily come off as repulsive. However, what I came to realize was how innocently PTA pulled it off, focusing less on the sex (to which there was none) and more on true love. Plus, it was the early 70’s. Wide age gaps were common. So long as the leads look close enough in age and the story is handled well, I’m fine (also, let’s face it: the narrative is less awkward when the woman is older; as least in the opinion of a guy).
“Licorice Pizza” is wild, experimental, and oddball. That’s what you should expect from Paul Thomas Anderson, but luckily for me, this story is a little easier to follow. Two people have an affinity for each other, to which they won’t give into; we explore this as they go on a crazy adventure full of scenes that showcase cameos, 70’s culture, and wacky set-ups. It’s another hang out movie of sorts, though it’s storyline is a bit more straightforward (outside of the jumping around in time without proper time stamps). While I found myself at odds in trying to make sense of some of it, I couldn’t help but smile. I grew attached to the love story, and the atmosphere of this 70’s landscape I am fascinated in.
PTA went all out to capture this romance. The production design is unreal, with wide city landscapes that depict the era beautifully. I loved the moments where the camera glided across the scene and we explored the world of this era. The music was also amazing, as it consisted of songs I listen to on a regular basis. Despite the girth of this movie, PTA settled on lesser known actors to embody his leads; it’s a choice I strongly support, as the star power never takes precedence (outside of a few cameos that were awesome). Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim shine in this. Their chemistry is wonderful, and their performances are natural. The cast that rounds out the ballot serve the story well, and I could tell all of them had fun on this. To me, the best was Bradley Cooper, whose role of Jon Peters stole the show (as did his scene, which was nerve-wracking to watch).
It’s no surprise that this one took home no awards at the Oscars. The story is too far out there to win over anyone, and even I’ll admit that I don’t blame you if you don’t enjoy it. There’s a niche crowd for “Licorice Pizza,” to which I belong. The time period is wonderfully captured, and the love story is performed greatly. There’s elements to the movie that left me wavering (mainly the Sean Penn scene and Gary’s unexplained ability to acquire his many businesses), but some of them clearly involve a brush up on history, as Paul Thomas Anderson was inspired by quite a bit of the figures and issues going on at the time.
As I distance myself further from this movie, I admire it more and more. For those of you who enjoy PTA’s work and the era of the 70’s, I say check this out. “Licorice Pizza” is certainly my unsung hero of the Best Picture nominees. FINAL SCORE: 90%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: