Licorice Pizza (2021)
R ‧ Comedy Drama /Coming of Age ‧ 133 Minutes
Written by Paul Thomas Anderson
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
The story of Alana Kane and Gary Valentine growing up, running around and going through the treacherous navigation of first love in the San Fernando Valley, 1973.
Some of the best films are just a simple premise done really well. To a degree, this is what makes Licorice Pizza such a good film. It’s probably in my top ten films of 2021. Well acted, great writing, funny, and a story that compels you to keep watching to see what happens next.
A coming of age story set in the 1970s southern California area. It’s the tale of a 15 year old entrepreneurial boy Gary (Cooper Hoffman) and his unlikely (and at times inappropriate) relationship with a 25 year old woman, Alana (Alana Haim) he meets at his school’s picture day. Their relationship strengthens as they become partners in Gary’s business and they satisfy each of their needs. Gary’s need to have something to yearn for, and Alana’s need to have the attention of someone and a potential opportunity to escape from her redundant existence.
Cooper Hoffman is the son of the late great actor Seymour Hoffman, this is his first feature film lead and he handles it like he’s been doing it for ages. His tone is effective and right for the character throughout. Very believable as a boy searching to find the next quick buck while he yearns for an older woman that won’t let them be together.
Cooper would probably be getting more recognition for his performance if he wasn’t playing opposite Alana Haim, who delivers one of the best performances of the year. She’s a very authentic actress. She exposes herself and wrestles with her dilemmas so we can share them with her. The chemistry between Alana and Cooper as actors elevates the script so that we can understand the complicated relationship between Gary and Alana.
The production of the film is nearly flawless. The only major thing is within the storyline itself. I had trouble rooting for the leads to get to get together because of the age difference. Ten years isn’t a deal breaker, unless one of the parties is under 18, then it’s a little creepy.
Three BEST things about the film
- Alana Haim’s performance. Honest, passionate, and authentic.
- The writing, it’s believable, turns out it is based on a real guy.
- The cameos; Bradley Cooper and Sean Penn make you howl.
The WORST things about the Film
- There’s really only one thing that bothered me about the film, and that’s the age difference. While it’s not clear exactly how long the film takes over, as the film develops and feelings between the characters, we have to remember that Alana is an adult and Gary, however mature he seems at times, is still a kid. The relationship isn’t appropriate and if the genders were reversed, this film wouldn’t be celebrated.
You don’t need attention as much as you need appreciation.
THE FINAL WORD
A solid film from top to bottom. Expect high praise from this film now, and extraordinary work in the future from the lead actors. Licorice Pizza is a film you need to take a bite out of.
My 3L system gives me the choice to Love It, Like It, or Lose It.
Licorice Pizza gets a Love It.
When he’s not reviewing films or interviewing people for the Black & A Half podcast, Silas can be found in the greater metro Seattle, WA working as a real estate agent helping people buy and sell homes, or performing stand up comedy to fellow nerds. He has a wife and three children and desperately wants to learn to make the perfect homemade pizza.