"Licorice Pizza" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
"Licorice Pizza", in a way, is a massive call-back to Paul Thomas Anderson's 1997 film, "Boogie Nights". Both are able to capture the vibe of the 1970's San Fernando Valley, yet both telling two completely different stories. While "Boogie Nights" tells the story of a young man bursting onto the porn scene, PTA's newest film follows a fifteen-year old named Gary (played by Cooper Hoffman, who is the son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman), who falls in love with a twenty-five year old woman named Alana (Alana Haim) in this cute and fun modern masterpiece.
The movie deals with all sorts of events that take place in the 70's in California, including the demand for water beds, young actors making a huge start in cute television shows and movies, the 1973 Oil Crisis, and much more. However, these events take place around these two young lovers, showing them adapting and changing following these real-life events.
This movie is PTA's most endearing movie. It makes the viewer fall in love with the concept of love, putting a grin on everyone's face throughout the entire movie. Consider the opening scene, for example. It involves Gary and Alana meeting for the first time, and you get this sense of ecstasy watching their interaction. He is very charming and tries to act suave, which is both enjoyable and adorable to watch at the same time. Her, on the other hand, is trying so hard not to fall under his spell that she can't help but smile and giggle like a schoolgirl multiple times throughout their first meeting. This sort of paves the way for their romance to blossom throughout the movie; it's perhaps one of the best opening scenes in a movie this year.
Alongside these fabulous leads, we also have amazing performances by Sean Penn, Beeny Safdie, Skyler Gisondo, and Bradley Cooper, who undoubtedly gives one of the best performances in the entire movie. Cooper, who is surprisingly only in the movie for about ten minutes, gives such a crazy and hilarious performance. His character is actor Jon Peters, who is supposedly dating Barbara Streisand at the time (which involves a whole scene of Peters trying to get Gary to pronounce her last name right). It seems like his character is bi-polar, going from nice and calm to extremely violent in only a matter of seconds. He is such a fun character, and the only complaint I have for this movie is that he wasn't in it more.
Overall, I think this could be high up on the list of PTA's greatest films. He perfectly crafts these characters and this storyline to bring viewers into the 1970's. He is able to entertain the audiences, as well as teach them, throughout the two hour runtime. Not only does this movie call back on the nostalgia from his first film, but can entertain audiences new to the films of this great director, perhaps garnering their love and appreciation for his entire filmography.