Licorice Pizza – Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson

Licorice Pizza is as its title suggests…exotic, sweet, tasty…and like the film itself, is more evocative than descriptive.

Starring: Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Sean Penn, Bradley Cooper

Director/write Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia) has tuned in to the feel, sights and the sounds of America in 1973 with a truly surprising cast that stars two first-time film actors, Alana Haim (of musical group Haim) and Cooper Hoffman (the teenage son of the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman).

Based on a loosely connected string of real life events and people, Licorice Pizza’s strength lies not in its plot but in its characters.

As we begin, Hoffman’s character Gary Valentine is a 15-year-old student having his high school picture taken when he is smitten by Alana, a 25-year-old photographer’s assistant.

But she is more than that, and so is he.

Shy and gawky on the outside, Gary seems wise beyond his years and is soon running his own waterbed business with Alana working for him. Meanwhile Alana seems quite the opposite, trying out various career moves, men and beliefs…yet between herself and Gary she holds the power in their relationship.

As someone who was 16/17 years old in 1973 I can confirm that Anderson and his crew have nailed 1973 perfectly. The styles, the furniture, the language and the music are all exactly as I remember them.

Speaking of music, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood has composed the film’s score (he seems to be everywhere at the moment) but the hits of the day featured on the soundtrack will really send you off into a musical nostalgia heaven…we hear The Doors, Bowie, McCartney, Blood, Sweat & Tears, even Gary Puckett as our dynamic duo traipses around Encino’s bars, cafes, nightclubs and restaurants.

And music fans will also love Tom Waits’ featured “cameo”…its pure Waits!

Licorice PizzaMy favourite sequence within the film involves Bradley Cooper’s Jon Peters (Google him, he’s real) and a hair raising semi-truck driven backwards down a winding Laurel Canyon road…apparently Alana actually did the driving in the film.

No surprise as, after you see Licorice Pizza, you will no doubt feel both Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman can do anything they want to.

So, lay back and let Licorice Pizza wash over you, do a bit of Googling and then watch it again!

Marty Duda

PS: Licorice Pizza was a record store chain in Southern California in the 1970s and a ‘licorice pizza’ is supposedly slang for a vinyl record…a term this record collector has never heard it before).