Licorice Pizza (15)Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sean Penn, Cooper Hoffman, Alana Haim
Author(s): Paul Thomas Anderson
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Release Date: 01/01/2022
Running Time: 134mins
In 1973 San Fernando Valley, 25-year-old Alana Kane is going through the motions as a photographer's assistant when 15-year-old child star Gary Valentine makes an unabashed romantic overture. Despite the age gap, Alana agrees to go to dinner with Gary and she subsequently chaperones him to New York for a public appearance with film star Lucy Doolittle. Gary starts his own waterbed company with Alana and introduces her to his agent Mary Grady.
LondonNet Film Review
Licorice Pizza (15)
Taking its title from a California music store chain and the slang term for a vinyl record, writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson’s nostalgia-drenched coming of age yarn chronicles pangs of first love in 1973 San Fernando Valley with the same free-flowing bonhomie as George Lucas’s American Graffiti. Groove is in the hearts of the lovable and occasionally infuriating central characters – a no-nonsense 25-year-old photographer’s assistant (Alana Haim) and a self-assured 15-year-old child star (Cooper Hoffman) – when their paths intersect on the day his high school queues for yearbook pictures…
Their first meeting is captured in the zinging dialogue of Anderson’s script, where prideful boasts (“I’m a showman. It’s my calling…”) are offset by flashes of painful and piercing self-realisation (“I don’t know how to do anything else.”) The filmmaker wrote the female lead specifically for Haim – one-third of the Los Angeles-based pop rock trio comprising sisters Alana, Danielle and Este, who portray bickering siblings on screen and are joined by their real-life parents Moti and Donna for amusing scenes of domestic discord around the dinner table.
It is a mesmerising big screen acting debut from the youngest member of the musical trinity, with an outside chance of an Oscar nomination for her endearing portrayal of a free spirit, who is California dreamin’ of something better than the wandering hands of her boss. Cooper Hoffman, son of Philip Seymour Hoffman, is almost as beguiling in his debut role, exuding optimism in every impeccably period-detailed scene.
Real-life characters from 1970s Hollywood provide loose inspiration for some of the oddballs who gatecrash the cosy existence of Alana Kane (Haim) after she entertains the romantic overtures of teen star Gary Valentine (Hoffman). She chaperones him to New York for a public appearance then briefly dates Gary’s rival (Skyler Gisondo) to the dismay of her smitten ward.
The topsy-turvy relationship recalibrates when Gary starts a waterbed business and invites Alana to dip her toes into the shallow end of the showbusiness pool where he paddles. Close encounters with gung-ho actor Jack Holden (Sean Penn), sexually voracious film producer Jon Peters (Bradley Cooper) – “I love tail. I love it so much it’s going to kill me one day!” – and fresh-faced mayoral candidate Joel Wachs (Benny Safdie) give Alana bountiful food for thought.
Licorice Pizza is scruffily charming and aimless like the characters. Haim and Hoffmann jive sweetly, underplaying their roles to anchor the picture in realism when supporting performances veer towards exaggeration. Anderson’s script ricochets at speed between bittersweet vignettes like a shiny orb bouncing off bumpers in one of the newly legalised pinball machines that opportunist Gary buys after a tip-off. With a couple of cheeky nudges, his excitable customers and Anderson’s picture score big.
– Jo Planter
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