It's always something to celebrate when Paul Thomas Anderson releases a new film. From Boogie Nights to Punch Drunk Love and Magnolia, the iconic filmmaker always pushes the bounds in storytelling and quirky, excellent characters. His latest vision is Licorice Pizza, a young coming-of-age romantic tale of two young people in early 1970's Los Angeles. The adventures, insanely chaotic situations, and realization of love are downright exquisite, awkward, and comedic between the two. There's nothing to dislike and everything to love in this hilarious story of romance that mixes fact and fiction with an all-star cast and some truly phenomenal performances, along with a killer soundtrack. MUST-SEE!
Now in theaters - Order your tickets at Fandango!
Paul Thomas Anderson does not shy away from any subject, no matter how taboo it can be. Whether it be an A-list star reciting a monologue about respecting a certain part of the human body or the highs and lows of the adult film industry, a strange love story, or even religion - there is always an innocent sense of amusement and wonder to these turbulent themes that Anderson explores. It is no different in Licorice Pizza as the taboo subject concerns a relationship between a young high school boy and a 25-year-old woman. That sounds unsavory at first, but it never crosses into that gross or illegal territory, but instead, the film plays out like a wild adventure between two people are genuinely adore each other, but just don't know it yet.
The film follows the 15-year old Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman), who is getting ready for his school yearbook photo, where he meets the 25-year old Alana Kane (Alana Haim), the photographer's assistant. It's clear off the bat that Valentine is not the typical young teenager. He's put together, dresses like an adult, combs his hair perfectly, and has accomplished a ton in the film and business industry. Meanwhile, Alana can't seem to get her life together and acts younger than Valentine. Gary immediately sees something in Alana, but she never really accepts his offers to go out on a date, however, she will sit at a restaurant with him to see what's she's all about.
And from then on, the two are always together even if they don't want to be by some force of nature that includes a run-in with the law, a water bed business run by Leo DiCaprio's father, a film stunt gone wrong led by Sean Penn and Tom Waits, and even a political campaign that doesn't play out well, but has similarities to Taxi Driver, which all culminates in an arcade and a violent night out with Hollywood weirdo Jon Peters (an impressive Bradley Cooper). Throughout all these escapades, PT Anderson weaves a fantastically funny and endearing web of young, silly romance that makes these coming-of-age films so spectacular.
Gary Valentine is actually based on the real-life guy named Gary Goetzman who is a big-time producer in Hollywood. He has produced almost all of Tom Hanks' films since Philadelphia amongst others. And it's no secret that the seeming fantasy elements that are portrayed in Licorice Pizza no doubt actually happened. The spotlight really is between Cooper and Alana. These two just have wonderful chemistry on screen, much like the way William and Penny Lane did in Almost Famous. It's innocent, funny, strange, and unusual all at the same time, but there's such a pure love between them that it's hard to not root for them, given the age difference. But that never really comes into a factor in a way that would make anything uncouth here, which is a great testament to PT Anderson on how to write a fantastic screenplay and show an unconventional romantic relationship and all its ups and downs.
Alana just owns the screen every time she's front and center. Her confidence, awkwardness, and low-self esteem in the film are pitch-perfect as she transforms into the woman she realizes she is and who she wants to be with. It's simply fantastic. Cooper has a wonderful charm and wit that makes him believable as someone who is 15 going on 30 here, and it's easy to see why everyone in the film loves him. Cooper is having a ball and turns in a nuanced performance of crazy, wicked, and hilarious as he terrorizes Los Angles and these kids. Penn, Waits, and Benny Safdie all turn in wonderfully funny performances as well. Also, Licorice Pizza has the best and funniest cameo of the year. If you blink you might miss it - but it's uproariously funny nonetheless.
Johnny Greenwood's music score and song selection is triumphant and oozes that amazing '70s Los Angeles sound that goes hand in hand with the period piece set designs and beautiful images of Los Angeles. Licorice Pizza is incredible and one of the best stories of love, because it travels through all the emotions of being in a relationship. Paul Thomas Anderson and his cast have knocked it out of the park. MUST-SEE!
Now in theaters - Order your tickets at Fandango!