Paul Thomas Anderson directed Licorice Pizza to add to his feature film resume including There Will Be Blood and Phantom Thread. Licorice Pizza is set in the San Fernando Valley in 1973 when Anderson would have been three years old. Cooper Hoffman plays Gary, an entrepreneurial 15-year-old. Alana Haim plays 25 year old Alana. Paul Thomas Anderson has also directed multiple Haim music videos.
I am still struggling to understand what message the film wanted me to take away from it. The relationship is gross. Gary is very confident and can talk himself into or out of any situation including a date with Alana. Their relationship progresses over a bumpy road to an end where we all expect to. It is still unsettling to have a 66% age difference and potential statutory rape.
If Anderson is attempting to bring nostalgia to the screen it is very targeted. It feels like Anderson read the Wikipedia page for 1973. Waterbeds are introduced to the US, pinball is legalized outside of gambling parlors, and there is a fuel crisis. Anderson was three years old when this film is set so he cannot have any memories of his own. When he was Gary’s age it was 1985 and the world had changed.
I watched this film on an airplane since it was on my to-watch list. I did not try to see it in theaters and I am glad I did not. I found it underwhelming though, I was surprised that the plot played out differently than the trailer made me believe. Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim deliver great performances if you overlook the grossness of their relationship. I hope to see them in future projects.