Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

‘Licorice Pizza’ is a visual festival full of brilliant performances

Cooper Hoffman, left, and Alana Haim in “Licorice Pizza”. (Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures Inc.)

From “Boogie Nights” to “Magnolia” to “There Will Be Blood” and “Phantom Thread”, writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson has created some of the most haunting and masterful works of the past quarter century and has cemented his reputation as one of the great filmmakers his generation. With the comedy / drama “Licorice Pizza” from the 1970s, he added another classic to his library that never strikes a wrong note and always entertains us knowing that we will enjoy it even more the second time around.

Can you say i loved this movie

“Licorice Pizza” has a kind of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” vibe in that it is a revisionist piece of showbiz history that mixes some real characters and purely fictional characters. But the more obvious influences are the works of authors Hal Ashby (“Shampoo”) and Robert Altman (“Short Cuts”, “The Player”), where Anderson once again proves his genius for perfect ensemble casts and an uncanny ability to weave several ongoing storylines to a cohesive, exciting, amazingly authentic big picture story. Whether you’re working with seasoned veterans or bright and shiny newcomers, Anderson has a way of getting the most out of them.

In the sun-drenched San Fernando Valley from the Nixon era, crammed with bell-bottoms and sideburns and miniskirts and long hair and water beds and pinball machines, with needle drops like “Peace Frog” from the doors, “If You Could Read My Mind” by Gordon Lightfoot, ” Let Me Roll It ”by Paul McCartney and Wings and“ Lisa, Listen to Me ”by Blood, Sweat & Tears are instrumental in setting the tone for a local high school. We meet 15-year-old, strawberry-haired, pimply charmer Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman, son of frequent Anderson collaborator Philip Seymour Hoffman) trying to arrange a date with 25-year-old Alana Kane, the photographer’s assistant (musician Alana Haim), and yes, this would probably never be a plot point in a big movie if the sexes were reversed, but in Anderson’s hands the potential romance never feels creepy or exploitative.

Alana brushes aside Gary’s advances and reminds him that he’s still a kid, but she’s intrigued by this hyperactive teenager and his talk about his acting career with a handful of movies and TV shows and commercials on his résumé, not to mention his great plans for all types of money making. In one of the many expertly rendered set pieces in “Licorice Pizza,” Alana accompanies Gary as his chaperone on a trip to New York to a live-cast reunion of the screwball comedy “Under One Roof,” a parallel universe version of the 1968 Lucille Ball- Comedy “Yours, Mine and Ours”. (This film is loosely based on the experiences and stories of Anderson’s longtime friend, actor and producer Gary Goetzman.) It’s a wonderfully odd slice of showbiz life around the early 1970s.

For an indefinite period of time, Gary and Alana drifted in and out of each other’s lives, with Gary still hoping for romance and Alana thinking of Gary as her platonic best friend – until she eventually considers a true romance with this crazy one-off-one nice character. Writer and director Anderson serves up tons of fantastically entertaining subplots, from dinner at Alana’s house (with Haim’s real siblings and parents as a family) to the burgeoning political campaign from real Los Angeles politician Joel Wachs (Benny Safdie) to Bradley Coopers nominated extended cameo as a hairdresser who became the producer Jon Peters, who is portrayed here as a manic, narcissistic, cleaning fool who may or may not be just right. The plethora of dramatic riches continues when Sean Penn appears as the spiritual cousin of the Leonardo DiCaprio character in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” with a William Holden insert. The macho star performs a death-defying motorcycle stunt on the Van Nuys golf course in front of a crowd that has followed him from a restaurant.

(Another subplot created a lot of controversy even before Licorice Pizza was released, as it is a racist restaurateur played by John Michael Higgins who has a number of Japanese women and has an exaggerated, offensive Asian accent speaks press screening for “Licorice Pizza”, I laughed at this character – not this character because he was such a horrible caricature. I can certainly understand and respect those who think the character is exploitative and plays racist stereotypes , but I felt like it was a legitimate portrayal of an unsuspecting idiot through the 1970s.)

With world-class production values ​​and glorious, memorable 35mm cinematography, “Licorice Pizza” is a visual feast full of razor-sharp dialogue, hilarious comedic vignettes, brilliant performances by Hoffman and Haim, and the seasoned, star-studded supporting cast and a real heart. This is one of the best movies of 2021.

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