“Licorice Pizza” wastes no time at all bringing you right into the action of each moment in the film, something that starts as being fairly unnerving, but became something to be a bit more expected. Constantly asking you to move to the next scene, pretty much forgetting whatever happened in the scenes prior. The same way that the characters live their lives, the backdrop is constantly evolving to fit the next scheme that Gary drags Alana in to help him with. Whether it be selling waterbeds, running an electoral campaign for a young and upcoming politician, or working to open the first legal pinball arcade again.
The entire film, like its cast, is incredibly funny and charming, with a really lovely soundtrack and stunning cinematography. The performances of Alana Kane (Alana Haim) and Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) are some of the best of the year. And in a small but appreciated supporting role, Bradley Cooper puts his backbone into playing Jon Peters by bringing his truly nonsensical mannerisms to screen. It was every crazy story that has been told about Peters, and then some extra bits on top. Presumingly, this came from personal experience at least a little bit as Bradly must have met Peters a number of times when directing/producing 2018’s “A Star Is Born,” of which Jon Peters was also a producer (as well as the Barbra Streisand-starring 1976 version).
And of course, what everybody has heard so far about this movie is the difference between the two characters, and actors frankly though it is not as severe. While the age gap is present, up-front, and plentifully noted throughout the film, you can’t help but get caught up in this affair and chemistry that Alana and Cooper have together. Honestly, they are cute together in the movie and you’re rooting for them? Which feels incredibly weird and you just want to see Alana sort of coming to her senses about what she’s doing. Cooper’s character though, just has too much draw. If it’s not Alana, he’s smooth-talking himself onto one girl or another, whether they’re his age or not. He’s cute, he’s charismatic, and he’s an incredibly talented businessman being able to see what will stick and seemingly make a large chunk of cash. He’s like a more rounded version of Eddy from Cartoon Network’s “Ed, Edd n Eddy”
Where the film starts to lack a bit, is that it feels like a lot of ideas just thrown at a wall. And a few of them stick, and I want to delve into them more! But there’s just too much happening to make this feel like 70s L.A., instead of fleshing out these moments of which we can get to be with the characters a bit more, understand more. It often feels like each scene, after the first where we meet our protagonists decline ever so slightly sidelining either Gary or Alana rather than put them together. And to add insult to injury, some of the roles that originally felt like they would be larger, are much smaller in reality. Sean Penn, Tom Waits, and Benny Safdie were large draws as well as the Big Three mentioned earlier. But for the most part, they feel wasted in this. Especially Safdie, whose role was reduced to a small stereotypical gay role. It would have been nice to either have that side-plot be expanded or just redacted as a whole. To put it more eloquently, Zachary Morgason’s review from Letterboxd states: “I would personally like to request directors in this decade to stop writing gay couples as little more than stereotypes to prod main character conflicts. I don’t have a clue why that has been a revitalized trend this year, but it sucks! Please immediately desist.”
Despite some of these flaws that can be overlooked for the most part—I enjoyed this movie a lot, and the entire time I could not tear my eyes from the screen. I can not wait to see Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim (or any of the other Haim Sisters featured) in other films with how incredibly talented they are.
So while it’s not the meticulous storytelling and character work that has been felt from Anderson’s previous work, it is still one of the most fun movies I had the pleasure of waiting to finally be able to see this year. To be cliche about it—I laughed, I cried, I had a wonderful time delving into the world of “Licorice Pizza”. If anybody knows anything about me and the films I like, especially that of PTA and my potential bias towards his films, that should come as no shock at all.
Make sure to catch this when it comes out at Christmas time, it has some very serious promise for this awards season, and you won’t want to miss our coverage on it for The (Other) Film Guys podcast episode at the end of this year!