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  • Writer's pictureBruce Klein

Licorice Pizza: It’s Daring, But Fun To Eat

A romantic comedy like you have never seen before. From the fertile mind of writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson comes an off-beat romantic comedy with a twist. Although at times it’s sophomoric, Anderson speaks from the heart. His movies spread across decades into the minds and emotions of people of all epochs, ages and class. With Licorice Pizza, we find him back on home territory, California’s San Fernando Valley. He has a knack for showing characters that cast their true identities. The characters show us transitions in real time.

A romance between a woman of 25 and a high school boy requires a suspension of belief for much of the movie. But “it’s all good,” plot wise of course. The movie conveys happiness from beginning to end. The main characters are youthful and portray the excitement of being alive but having poor judgement. T his movie is fun and exhilarating which comes from not knowing what’s going to happen next. There are no guide posts and most everything is totally unexpected. It’s joyous to go along for the ride. Nothing is obvious, hackneyed or trite. It’s so original that it all seemed real after I jumped down the rabbit whole. Jumping down is quickly forgotten and I was swimming along. Touring on the journey. All this magic is accomplished with little violence or cursing. Without these crutches, the movie has nothing in common with any of todays adult fare. It’s a film art. Something unique and true is occurring. There is no past or future. It’s all happening in front of you, up on the screen.

The movie satisfies your appetite for comedy and romance. It has a sense of cinema verité. The characters at time jump off the screen and then go back into the action. Bradley Cooper and Shawn Penn have small but power-packed roles. Alana Haim, a first-time movie actor, is superb. She’s a whirlwind. Alana acts young for her age but that is the way it must be to make the plot work. She will bring you up even if you’re down. Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) is just the puppy you want to take home from the shelter. He puts in a low-key performance that fits with his character. Together, the two create a spell that puts viewers into a blissful trance. But he holds back at times when he could give the movie a push. Even if you don’t like the characters, the movie is irresistible. You would defend them with your life because they make you feel good.

The joy takes a while to take effect. The potion is not Xanax. But once you catch up, there is no letting go. Every device, every actor and every set are conducive to the potion. It’s hard not to like or love this movie. Caution, don’t go see it if you are angry at, of just tolerating, the person you are watching it with. Because at the movie’s end, you will sock them or at the least sneak out.


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