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Licorice Pizza

LICORICE PIZZA is set in 1973, the oil crisis is imminent. In easy-going anecdotes, Paul Thomas Anderson chronicles the life of film producer Gary Goetzman, a friend of Anderson‘s, as well as the water beds, pinballs, celebrities and old records.

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“Licorice Pizza“ was the name of a record store chain in California, named this way because the product was black and round and the ingredients were often kind of sweet. In Paul Thomas Anderson‘s eponymous new film, the phrase isn‘t mentioned except for in the title. Of course there‘s a pop soundtrack which may allude to pop music using pretty occult references, but the soundtrack is pretty obvious: the first appearance of the protagonist, Alana, is set to David Bowie‘s “Life on Mars,“ which is about an annoyed girl with the exact kind of hair that the equally annoyed Alana has - “mousy.“ When Alana and Gary flow to New York as their first activity, “Stumblin In“ by Smokie singer Chris Norman and Suzie Quatro is playing, and sure, both of them are stumbling into something that‘s romantic somehow. The relationship between 15 year old Gary (Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s son Cooper Hoffman) and Alana, who is 10 years older (Alana Haim, the youngest of the Haim sisters who are also friends with Anderson), is the glue that holds the laidback and nostalgic narrative together. Their age difference gives things a bit of an edge. Their experiences are based on film producer Gary Goetzman‘s anecdotes, who is Anderson‘s friend.

LICORICE PIZZA is set in 1973, the oil crisis is imminent. Gary hits on Alana who mocks the boy but then agrees to go on a date with him. Gary is a child star after all, he has money and contacts that could be useful in the Hollywood environment. Gary is ambitous, Alana has an attitude. He opens a waterbed business, an arcade for teens, and introduces Alana to an acting agency. She gets cast in a film that is inspired by Clint Eastwood‘s BREEZY (1973) in which the pretty old William Holden meets a young woman. Drunk Holden (Sean Penn) is egged on to do a bizarre stunt by his director (Tom Waits). Gary and Alana both deliver a waterbed to Barbra Streisand‘s loopy lover Jon Peters (Bradley Cooper). Between these scenes Gary and Alana often walk around, not because they have to be somewhere in particular, but because they‘re young people filled with energy and a zest for life.

Anderson‘s film isn‘t completely free of annoying film tropes, and some scenes fall flat. A restaurant owner who speaks to his Japanese wives – there‘s a different one in every scene – with a Japanese accent: Anderson considers it to be a realistic portrayal of racism in the 70s, but you could also see it as a racist joke. Comments about Alana‘s “Jewish nose“ are shrugged off by the character. Maybe this is meant to show the dark side of the 70s, but the scenes feel misplaced in the series of good-natured recollections – Waterbeds! Pinballs! Celebrities! The celebrities favorite restaurants! Bowie! The Doors! This also goes for when the era‘s brutal homophobia rears its head later on. LICORICE PIZZA is pretty nice as a friendly and nostalgic series of anecdotes. Alana Haim proves she has considerable on-screen charisma, the celebrities, especially Sean Penn, Tom Wiats, and Bradley Cooper let it all hang out. This all might seem thin and sweet – like a licorice pizza – but it‘s also fun.

Tom Dorow

Translation: Elinor Lewy

Credits
Screenings

Screenings

  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles

ALLE ANGABEN OHNE GEWÄHR.
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