dir: Paul Thomas Anderson
I have wanted to like a film by Paul Thomas Anderson for a long time. I haven’t really thoroughly enjoyed any film of his since Boogie Nights. Parts of There Will Be Blood and The Master were compelling, but in no way did the flicks hang together for me, especially with their demented endings that undid whatever goodwill remained in my heart or head.
I tried watching Inherent Vice, based on, like all his books, an unfilmable novel by Thomas Pynchon, but I could not retain anything that was happening, and I was completely straight and sober, and yet I was still bamboozled, even though 90% of the plot is delivered in voiceover.
Licorice Pizza is an almost artfully disingenuously simple story with little connective tissue between scenes that only works if you like the performances of the central characters, being Alana and Gary (Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman). If you don’t find them engaging, or even tolerable, this will be a well-filmed 135 minute exercise in exquisitely filmed torment.
I don’t remember the early 70s so there’s no nostalgia value for me, but all the same this is filmed to look not just like something from the American early 70s, but to look like it was filmed in the 1970s, with a similar film stock and ‘look’. It’s the kind of thing you expect from Anderson.
Does it ‘help’ to tell the story… I have no idea. Probably not. It depends on what you think the story is. I sat there for over two hours wondering about what I was watching and why I was watching it.
On one level, you could be forgiven for thinking the story is about a teenage boy called Gary (Hoffman) and a woman in either her mid or late twenties called Alana (Alana Haim). Gary is an awkward, goofy teenager, but he is insistent that he has a charming manner. As audience members, we don’t really see it, but some people in the film respond to it, and others don’t. He is variously referred to throughout the flick as a hustler or an entrepreneur, but he never really seems that good at anything.
Alana rejects his every advance, which is probably a good thing, since a relationship between the two of them these days would be illegal, I guess(?) And we never have it spelled out as to why she keeps hanging around with him despite being repelled by him.