PT Anderson’s story of young love supplies

Published: 12/28/2021 4:32:24 PM

Modified: 12/28/2021 4:31:56 PM

Paul Thomas Anderson is drunk with the young love in Licorice Pizza, his dizzying ’70s story of romance and growing up. The two lovebirds in the center are rowdy 15-year-old child actor Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman, son of the late Anderson regular Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his crush Alana Kane (Alana Haim, guitarist of sisterly rock trio Haim), who is 10 years older than he.

Calling it romance right off the bat is a bit of a misnomer. Licorice Pizza is about Gary’s persistent pursuit of Alana and the way he is constantly trying to impress her and convince her to love him the way he loves her. It’s a teenage dream of highs, crashing lows, and crazy side dishes, and screenwriter Anderson comfortably lapses into the rhythms and cadences of the unpredictable, innocent, sweet, horny mind of the American teenager.

Hoffman and Haim are both first-time actors, a risky gamble that pays off in terms of the couple’s on-screen credibility. They have no foreign luggage and exude charm and authenticity, not to mention extreme sympathy. If they didn’t, the company would collapse, which luckily never happens, credit to both the actors and the world Anderson built in his beloved San Fernando Valley in the 1970s.

(On note: Licorice Pizza was a ’70s chain of record stores in Southern California and is never mentioned in the movie, which is a fun bit but doesn’t make a great title.)

The couple first met when she was a photographer’s assistant at his high school on photo day. He immediately starts hitting her; She rejects him, but is intrigued, especially by the silly confidence he exudes. That confidence is something of a facade, but he does it well enough to convince her that he himself believes in his own bragging rights.

They start hanging out a lot, no funny stuff, but he’s intoxicated with her and she appreciates his attention. And he’s slowly starting to wear them down over a series of episodes – little dates at local restaurants, a trip to New York where he does a cast reunion for the sitcom where he started doing a gig selling waterbeds etc. – where he is happy to be around, but works overtime to get out of the friend zone. On the fringes is the world of Hollywood and politics (she works for a politician who is running for mayor) that threatens to rob them of their youthful idealism.

Eventually, these episodes – including the late inning chapters with Sean Penn as the gonzo actor and Bradley Cooper as the self-obsessed film producer – stretch the film; If Anderson ever had a 90-minute film, this is it. And the climax could use a few more sparks: the investment in the couple over the course of the film is deeper than what is rewarded by the emotional payoff of the film.

But it’s fun and Anderson’s most carefree gimmick of any movie, and the way he frames and lights up Hoffman and Haim’s faces shows the unabashed affection he has for his characters and his story. That carries over to the audience, whose belief in the characters is an integral part of the movie’s success. Licorice Pizza isn’t a story about everlasting love, it’s about young love, and Anderson captures the wild feelings of youthful affection. It’s a fleeting thing in the long run, but that doesn’t make it any less real.

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‘Licorice Pizza’ in the Red River Theaters

Wednesday: 12, 3:30, 7

Thursday: 12 noon, 3:30 a.m., 7 a.m. (proof of vaccination required for all Thursday shows)

Friday: 12, 3:30, 7

Saturday: 12, 3; 30, 7

Sunday: 12, 3:30, 7

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