You never know that you need something…until it’s presented in front of you.
While Licorice Pizza is probably not the earth shattering piece of cinema that people want it to be, it’s actually the movie we needed right now as a master storyteller and filmmaker gives us an awkward coming of age romance that is just so immaculately executed that you can help but feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
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.
It seems like we’ve forgotten that an auteur like Paul Thomas Anderson can still make very small and very intimate stories because he’s done that here and then some with Licorice Pizza as he’s given us something that is both truly relatable yet incredibly epic all at the same time.
Now we could easily wax philosophical about how well directed and written this all is…but let’s face it. It’s Paul Thomas Anderson and to be blunt we knew that going in so anything we’d say would be moot.
The thing that really struck us on this outing is just how goddamn nice this movie is. It has the kind of charm that is akin to the likes of Robert Altman or Hal Ashby at their peaks. Its equal parts funny with genuine feeling as it’s just so rare for a story like this to feel as smart as it actually does. Filled with razor sharp dialogue and fully written characters this is a film that defies genre and being put in a box. It is simply a beautiful piece of cinema that does pretty much everything right.
Even when it diverges on the occasional tangent of nonsense, it all makes sense because even its equivalent of a “Family Guy” style cutaway in the narrative still ends up being an epic piece of storytelling that is pivotal to the chaotic nature of the story as a whole.
Love is a messy but ultimately beautiful thing and it jumps off the screen thanks to some stellar debut performances from two leads that manage to hold the screen with a kind of electricity that is rarely seen from contemporaries that have 10 times the experience that these two have.
In her leading and feature debut; Alana Haim commands the screen like she’s been doing this for decades. With an awkward young charm, stunning beauty and deft comedic timing she manages to own every single scene that she is in…and that’s pretty well most of them. Alongside Cooper Hoffman (son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) they have chemistry on the screen that quite simply cannot be taught. Both actors have easily earned themselves a spot in the future annals of “P.T.A.” players and are lead to performance that have already started to earn them both accolades and maybe even some gold this awards season.
While Sean Penn, Tom Waits, John Michael Higgins, John C Reilly, Maya Rudolph, Benny Safdie and the epic Bradley Cooper all swoop in for some memorable moments with this pair on their adventure of young love they are never really there long enough to be anything other than bumps in the road. It’s Haim and Cooper who carry this film, and with P.T.A. leading the way they simply make it look easy as hell.
While there are movies that have come out this year that make more of an impact in terms of the art of cinema and visual storytelling; Licorice Pizza is actually more like the warm hug that most of us can’t give each other right now during these times of COVID. It’s the next best thing and worth a socially distanced trip to the theatre.