By: Amanda Guarragi
Over the years Paul Thomas Anderson has created some interesting features. From Boogie Nights, to Inherent Vice, and now Licorice Pizza, he has covered an array of characters with such complexities. He has been able show life as it is through the eyes of these characters and has people connect with them. Anderson takes us back to the ’70s with Alana (Alana Haim) and Gary (Cooper Hoffman) who seem like an unlikely pairing because of their age gap. The one thing they do have in common is their ambition to break into the entertainment industry and become really successful.
Throughout the film, we see that Gary really likes Alana and she ends up toying with him. Apart from the fact that Alana is 25, while Gary is 15, they did not have chemistry. Their connection wasn’t even believable and it’s because of the performances. Haim and Hoffman tried their best with a script that doesn’t really do anything for their characters. It’s hard to express how bland this film is because the lack of care for these characters and the romance aspect of it. There are other films that nail that feeling; the butterflies that you feel when you’re with your crush, the subtle glances, the goofy smiles, and the purity of the crush on someone older, all of that was severely lacking. Which, in turn, made me not care about the two of them at all.
The film really is a mixed bag because of the subplots that never fully develop. There are characters that come in during the second half of this film that do nothing for the lead characters either. It’s like Anderson was writing obstacles that don’t really help Alana and Gary’s situation. Furthermore, the blatant racism in this film, no matter how minor it seems, still made me uncomfortable and was completely unnecessary. It doesn’t matter that it takes place in a different era; it still served no purpose in the story, other than it garnering a laugh, which is even worse. I only felt second-hand embarrassment and a high level of cringe when watching this movie.
Licorice Pizza is a slice of Gary Valentine’s life in the 1970s; it’s messy, stressful, and filled with a certain emptiness that can only be filled by his crush. Valentine is sweet, arrogant, and is incredibly charming when he needs to be. At times, he looked and acted like his father, so that was nice to see come through. As for Haim, I found her performance to be quite bland and uninspired as a leading woman. Their lack of chemistry really took me out of the story and left the second half of this film feeling like a chore to sit through.