This new Paul Thomas Anderson 1973 San Fernando Valley movie is a nostalgic trip of the best sense with youthful bravado that is quite relatable in its vicissitudes. A highly personalized one that might share a kindred spirit with Cameron Crowe’s low grossing Almost Famous.
The maker of Punch-Drunk Love, invites a blithe, impulsive disposition in what might be a bit loose for many on-lookers. Hopefully, in the case of Licorice Pizza, what will generate noticeable word-of-mouth for an intended theatrical run before reaching ending up in ancillary, streaming markets.
Having frequently collaborators like composer Johnny Greenwood at the eclectic, sometimes divisive director’s disposal proves quite fruitful. Especially with a melodious period soundtrack including artists like Nina Simone, David Bowie, Sonny & Cher Paul McCartney & Wings, and Blood, Sweet & Tears to name a few.
If it doesn’t spark that uninhibited feeling to reach a deeper maturity, you’re missing a uniqueness that has a dreamy laid-back vibe about it. Other auteurs like Cameron Crowe and Richard Linklater can easily admire the excursions and sense of freedom or display, Whether traipsing in a gas station, a fancy restaurant, or move agent or star’s residence.
Good times are to be had in a dazed and confused situation in certain respects given the Watergate scandal and the OPEC oil embargo. A mid-20s yearbook photographer Alana (Alana Haim of the pop/rock sister trio Haim) is in an arrested development stage given her depressed personal and professional state.
Gary Valentine is the savvy 15-year-old-schooler whose dabbled in show biz enough to do pubic relations for restaurants and start the Soggy Bottoms water bed store. What occurs between Gary and Alana as she does the shoot at his school for her company forms the crux of the film. A relationship that blossoms but not in the traditional ways as a discomfiting feeling will begin to dissipate.
The title comes from a defunct SpCal record chain and has such a genuine, natural feel for the ordinary and humor that comes with it. Anderson’s wife Maya Rudolph is one of the stars in cameos not really in it for an easy paycheck. Like John C. Reilly, Tom Waits and especially Bradley Cooper (currently in Nightmare Alley) very funny as an ex of Barbara Streisand Producer Jon Peters.
So, there’s a connection to past events with the likes of Benny Sadie portraying Joel Wachs in the early stages of a political career (he would be president of the L. A. City Council) part of an assortment of real-life characters in the orbit of the fictionalized Alana and Gary. Not to mention another of the cameos of folks like George DiCaprio (Leo’s pop), an inspiration of Anderson as an eccentric hip who ran a wig shop that peddled waterbeds.
Hoffman (son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) has more than a boyish, smooth charm and Haim manages to navigate the waters Anderson has set before her and her younger co-star with a beguiling verve. With a title like Licorice Pizza one’s appetite might be resistant, but following an odd couple like this you might be justifiably inclined to sneak another slice.