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Paul Thomas Anderson’s Singular Slice of ’70s HollywoodExBulletin




Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim are unlikely friends in Licorice pizza.



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Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim are unlikely friends in Licorice pizza.


The words “Licorice Pizza” are never spoken in Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film, Licorice Pizza, and you might be wondering where the title came from, especially if you weren’t in Southern California in the 70s. It’s the name of an old record store chain that existed when Anderson was growing up. in the San Fernando Valley. The film unfolds like a muddled ’70s flashback, which he seems to have pulled together by delving into old cherished stories and songs. Some of them can be heard on the gloriously muffled soundtrack: Nina Simone, Sonny & Cher, The Doors and others. The film is funny, shaggy, and utterly wonderful.

It’s also an obvious labor of love, featuring two young actors who Anderson has a certain history with. One of them is Cooper Hoffman, the son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was a regular associate of Anderson. Cooper Hoffman plays a 15-year-old go-getter with the made-for-Hollywood name of Gary Valentine.

At the start of the film, Gary meets an assistant photographer in her twenties named Alana; it is performed by Alana Haim, who is part of a rock trio, Haim, with her two sisters. They have appeared in several shorts and music videos directed by Anderson. Alana Haim is a revelation here, with a radiant star birth aura that hooks you from the moment she first appears.

The film is a kind of romantic comedy, but platonic. Gary is instantly in love with Alana and tries to impress her, bragging about his acting career, he has a movie under his belt and the PR company he runs with his busy single mom.

Alana fires him at first, noting their age difference, but something about Gary’s insistent charm wears him out and a friendship is formed. Gary’s 15 minutes in Hollywood are almost over, but he’s an unusually enterprising kid, and he soon opens a waterbed business in the valley, and Alana, who has nothing better to do, becomes his partner. commercial.

Their relationship is a series of ups and downs, partings and reunions. Gary loves Alana and never stops trying to convince her. Alana admires Gary’s entrepreneurial spirit, but is also easily put off by his immaturity and wonders why she is hanging out with him and his 15-year-old friends to begin with. The film sends them zigzagging from one comic episode to another. Not all of them work. I cringed at a recurring comic in which actor John Michael Higgins speaks to his Japanese wife with an exaggerated accent.

But Anderson is on firmer footing when he shows Gary and Alana are caught up in the craziness of 1970s Hollywood. At one point, Alana is clearly out of her element while having a drink with an actor on a motorcycle. which is supposed to evoke William Holden, played by a gravel voice Sean Penn. Later, Alana, Gary and their friends deliver a bed of water to Hollywood producer and famous sex pest Jon Peters, played by hilarious Bradley Cooper.

Gary Valentine is a young replacement for Gary Goetzman, a prolific film and television producer whose colorful stories about 1970s Hollywood, including his own debut as a child actor, drive much of the plot in Licorice Pizza. Having said that, it’s an Anderson film through and through. It could be sunnier and more laid back than his previous dramas like There will be blood and The master, but it is no less rich in historical details. One of the funniest sets in the movie, an action scene involving a fleeing truck, takes place during gasoline shortages that would stretch the lines of cars for miles. A more serious subplot finds Alana working as a volunteer for Joel Wachs’ 1973 Los Angeles Mayor campaign, played by Benny Safdie with a deceptive golden boy smile.

No matter what shenanigans Alana and Gary fall into, almost every episode ends in disillusionment. Adults and especially adult men are so false, so deceitful, so corrupt. And the men who work in the movies are perhaps the worst of them all: Despite all his affection for old Hollywood, Anderson isn’t afraid to lay bare the vulgar side of the industry and the dangers it poses. , especially for an impressionable young woman like Alana.

And so there is something satisfying about the regularity with which Licorice Pizza rejects the film making convention. He is clearly influenced by American graffiti, another portrayal of Californian youth, but it also has the laid-back vibe of great ’70s filmmakers like Robert Altman and Hal Ashby. Anderson likes to fill the screen with wonderfully unglamorous young faces, freckles, buttons and all. Hoffman and Haim are both great, and Haim in particular has so much natural warmth and charisma that you would gladly follow her in another movie, especially if it was as endearing and singular as this one.




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