Licorice Pizza

Licorice Pizza

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.

A teenager becomes enamoured with an older woman during the summer of 1973 in . While in line for school photos 15-year-old Gary Valentine () strikes up a conversation with 25-year-old photography assistant Alana Kane (). Despite their ten-year age difference, Gary ends up asking Alana out and the two begin a complicated relationship that has many ups and downs over the course of the summer.

Licorice Pizza is a 1970s-set coming-of-age story written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, with the name of the film coming from a chain of record shops from the time period in Southern California. The first is the debut film for stars Alana Haim, best known with her two sisters as the pop rock band Haim, and Cooper Hoffman, who is the son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. The film chronicles the budding romance between the protagonists of Alana and Gary over the course of the summer of 1973. The couple get into a variety of midadventures during this time, including a spontaneous motorcycle stunt organized by actor Jack Holden () and his director friend Rex Blau (), the delivery of a waterbed to film producer Jon Peters (), and Alana getting a job for mayoral candidate Joel Wachs (), who harbours a secret.

Licorice Pizza is a very vingette-heavy film, with constants being the leads of Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman. It's easy to assume that Cooper Hoffman was cast solely for his father Philip Seymour Hoffman's previous collaborations with Paul Thomas Anderson and indeed he has a lot a group to grow as an actor. However, the same cannot be said about Alana Haim, who ends up really shining in her debut acting role and ends up being the true soul of Licorice Pizza. It can be aruged that Haim's character of Alana is simply an extension of herself, down to having the same first name and real parents and siblings appear in the film as Alana's family.

Apart from being a coming of age story, Licorice Pizza can be seen as a love letter to 1970s California, a time period that Paul Thomas Anderson previously visited in 1997's Boogie Nights and 2014's Inherent Vice. In fact, it can almost be argued that Boogie Nights and Inherent Vice can join with Licorice Pizza as an informal trilogy of Paul Thomas Anderson's 1970s-set films.

Altogether, Licorice Pizza is a very charming coming-of-age film with an excellent debut performance by Alana Haim.

Licorice Pizza opens in 70mm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on Friday, December 24, 2021

Trailer for Licorice Pizza

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.