Licorice Pizza ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Review by Andrea Carnevali
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. On at Chiswick Cinema now.
With nine films under his belt in the last 25 years – Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Phantom Thread, just to mention three of my favourite – Paul Thomas Anderson is considered by many critics as one of the greatest filmmakers of his generation and Licorice Pizza does very little to alter that belief, even if the story this time might feel lighter.
His so-called trademarks are all here: the dynamic camerawork, the multi-layered audio/visual imagery and of course his use of music, so key in this film in particular, in evoking the vibes of the ‘70s.
Though, if I could dare criticising something about the film, I would say that there was probably a little bit too much music this time: there were moments, especially during the first half, when I was really craving for some silences. I found the over-present music was at times slightly intrusive and I thought that occasionally it was even joining scenes together which had completely different moods.
But aside from this, overall Licorice Pizza (the title itself refers to the slang term for a vinyl record) is possibly one of the most accessible films by the director.
Compared with some of his previous films like There Will Be Blood or The Master, this is a deliberately softer coming of age story, a sweet love/friendship relationship between a young woman searching for a way into adulthood and a know-it-all, at times smart-ass, teenager who acts as though he’s already arrived. His character is apparently based on Gary Goetzman, child star-turned-producer in early 1970s.
While the film’s structure might feel loose at times, meandering and seemingly digressive (and yes, as ever, they could have shaved off 20 minutes somewhere), it’s the interplay between these two characters that gives the heart and soul to the film: every single scene with them is a joy to watch: funny, lovable, heart-breaking and then hilarious again.
Credits of course to the two wonderful newcomers, Alana Haim, who manages to bring both the spontaneity of a young girl as well as the disillusionment of a well-experienced adult, and Cooper Hoffman son of late Phillip Seymour-Hoffman, a frequent collaborator of the director and the living proof that clearly acting talent runs in the family.
If you search for another weighty and punchy Paul Thomas Anderson film, you may be disappointed, but what you’ll get instead is some the evocative ‘70s nostalgia, utterly charming actors and great cameos, including Sean Penn and a hilarious scene-stealing Bradley Cooper. If all that doesn’t leave you with a smile on your face, I don’t know what does?
Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick.
Licorice Pizza is on in cinemas right now, including Chiswick Cinema
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