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‘Licorice Pizza’ – Review

‘Licorice Pizza’ – Review


Noted auteur filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson takes audiences on a journey of nostalgia and first love as he winds the clock back to the late 1970s and takes audiences to the burgeoning Hollywood California scene as two young dreamers fall in love for the first time, and make their move to take on the big lights of the city in Licorice Pizza.

The story of Alana Kane (Alana Haim) and Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) growing up, running around and going through the treacherous navigation of first love in the San Fernando Valley, 1973.

Get ready for a whirlwind tale of first love amongst the rolling hills of the San Fernando Valley and the big lights of Hollywood set against a classic mix of quintessential 70s tracks in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza. As he did with his cult classic work Boogie Nights, Anderson brings together a wonderful sense of nostalgia and considerable detail in re-creating the hip-vibe and groovy atmosphere of this dynamic decade and as a picture, Licorice Pizza sucks you right in. Both an intimate story of first love, and a sprawling epic of a larger, more dynamic Hollywood at play, Licorice Pizza is a film that weaves multiple narratives together to create one larger story. And it’s an interesting choice in terms of its story construction.

In terms of casting, Anderson finds two incredible stars in the making in the form of Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman who portray the film’s central characters Alana Kane and Gary Valentine. Both feel consistent with the period that the story is set in and both have a great command over the high level of energy and emotion that they need to bring to the film. Alana Haim is the central star of the film and she’s incredible, in this, her film debut. Free-spirited yet business-minded, passionate yet flighty, both a romantic and a cynic at the same time, Haim’s Alana is a multi-faceted character to watch develop on screen and whenever she is in the centre of the picture she commands its entire attention. Haim has the pull of a young Julianne Moore and I’m excited to see where her career takes her next.

Licorice Pizza also pulls in several noted stars in key supporting roles including Sean Penn, Tom Waits and Bradley Cooper. Penn stars as Jack Holden, Hollywood royalty and a massive box office star, and based on noted actor William Holden, who has an interesting interaction and infatuation with Alana. And he takes her for a hell of a ride. Tom Waits brings a drunken, laid back vibe as filmmaker Rex Blau, based on Mark Robson, and he has a brief interaction with Alana and Jack in one of Hollywood’s grooviest restaurants. And then there’s Bradley Cooper who fully commits as hairdresser turned producer Jon Peters and he steals the movie in his surprise appearance. Volatile, standoffish and uniquely hypnotic, Peters is a big-time Hollywood player, and Cooper teases out his gigantic ego.

Long time film aficionados will find real joy in watching Licorice Pizza due to its focus on a dynamic period in Hollywood history. From the players and locations, the big stars and small fish, and just the day to day hustlers who are trying to make it in the concrete jungle of Los Angeles. All of it is present in Licorice Pizza. Anderson’s noted attention to detail is what makes this film such an interesting watch, film fans will find a lot to keep their attention engaged as Alana and Gary make their way through this crazy town.

Licorice Pizza is a coming-of-age tale packed together with love, heart and a glass full of Hollywood nostalgia. It’s a deeply personal film from its director, and for those with a passion for old Hollywood, and the people who made it what it was, it’s a real treat.

Image: Universal Pictures