A review of the new coming-of-age movie “Licorice Pizza”

Paul Thomas Anderson has both written and directed a film set in California’s San Fernando Valley in the early 1970s and everything about the work – the clothes, the decor, the music, the television, the politics, even the style of the graphics – is redolent of the period.

At its heart – and the movie does have real heart – is an unlikely relationship between a 15 year old kid actor and entrepreneur called Gary and a 25 year old photographer’s assistant called Alana, but there are a variety of side stories that sometimes seem a little forced into the main narrative. 

The casting is eclectic. On the one hand, the two leads are in their first feature film: Cooper Hoffman, the son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman who was a frequent collaborator with Anderson, and Alana Haim, a singer who has had a number of music videos shot by Anderson. On the other hand, there are some heavy hitters with Sean Penn and Bradley Cooper giving strong performances in cameo roles. To add to the thespian mix, Alana’s parents and sisters are all portrayed by Haim’s real life family. It’s that kind of personal movie.

Indeed the film is full of characters and events and even castings inspired by Anderson’s early life and most viewers will have no idea of most of these allusions. Even the title will be a mystery (it is slang for a vinyl record). Therefore, although the lead characters are charming and the story often funny, one can’t help feeling that the work is uneven and somewhat self-indulgent. 


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