Movie #27 2022: Licorice Pizza (2021)

Back to the Oscars race now, with a film that I found rather bizarre. Being quite a fan of Phantom Thread and There Will Be Blood, I expected to like this more than I did… but that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it. Though very different to Paul Thomas Anderson‘s aforementioned features, Licorice Pizza does have some of his signature directorial style, but in a much more modern, stylised way.

Focusing on the relationship between 25-year old Alana (Alana Haim) and 15-year old child actor (Cooper Hoffman), the movie is about a crush held on the former by the latter, and their escapades around the San Fernando Valley in 1970s California. Together, they decide to make some extra cash by starting a business together, but the pair of them – along with some of their friends and co-workers – fall into much more trouble than they ever foresaw.

I said before that I kind of enjoyed this movie… but I’m not exactly sure why. With certainly though, I will say that I’d have enjoyed two hours of just the Haim family arguing in their house more. (On a personal note, I’ve been a Haim fan for years, once seeing them live in all their glory at Manchester’s O2 Apollo, so I’m happy to report that this only made me love them even more.)

So, again, I said I wasn’t sure why I enjoyed Licorice Pizza, and I’m still not. Don’t expect that to change by the end of this review. In a nutshell, I don’t actually get what the point of the film was and I probably won’t ever watch it again; the plot was either really questionable or inconsistently paced but for the most part, I was pretty gripped by it? My whole experience with it was really confusing, actually. I’m completely baffled by the entire thing. 

Here’s what was unquestionably brilliant about it though. Aesthetically, it’s wonderful. Paul Thomas Anderson seeking out old-style film lenses in order to shoot this movie really paid off; you can practically smell the seventies coming through the screen. At least visually, Licorice Pizza is immaculate. Not just in the way it’s shot either, but the costumes and the set design are fantastic. Pair that with a fabulous soundtrack and it makes for quite a technical masterclass. Whilst I can’t quite grasp the idea that it has been nominated for Best Picture, I will admit that I can’t begrudge PTA’s Best Director nod.

To continue with the positives, I must also applaud the cast. PTA choosing two newcomers in Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman (son of the late Philip Seymour) is not only brave, but the pair of them really do a good job at capturing a whimsical, optimistic view of the world as seen through their characters. Alana is particularly convincing, even if she is just playing a version of herself at times, and I have no doubt that this is just the beginning for Hoffman. I’d love to see more of the both of them on screen in the future.

Even though this is technically impressive, there’s just something gross about it. I can’t help but repeat what’s been said already, and this may be the reason why I didn’t enjoy it all too much. To those who are saying “thEY’rE nOT A COUplE ThouGH?!”… you’re lying to yourselves. Though often ambiguous, by the end scene, you can damn well see that they’re clearly more than just platonic friends. 

Anyway, the best part of the story was the backwards rolling truck sequence (Alana apparently drove that truck for real?!), which was strangely intense, and the only thing that would make me rate it any higher would be if the Haim family just recorded themselves talking in feature length. Bye.

Licorice Pizza is still screening in some cinemas in the UK.

TQR Category Ratings:

Costume & Set Design: 
Overall Enjoyability Rating: 

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