- Hamish Hart
Licorice Pizza (2022) Review
OSCAR season brings out my passion for movies even more than normal due to the sheer quality of films annually nominated by the Academy. One of the frontrunners for Best Picture at this year's awards is the latest feature by Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza, a coming-of-age story that fully-deserves its triad of nominations.
Set in the sunny, carefree locale of 1970's West Los Angeles, Licorice Pizza follows new friends Alana Kane (Alana Haim) and Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) as they bond, grow and blossom a beautiful friendship that eventually turns into an encounter with the feeling of first love, and how a 25-year-old woman and 15-year-old boy must deal with the many problems that come their way.
Being the prolific director and writer that he is, Paul Anderson has a remarkable mind for crafting nostalgic stories that can harken back to a time filled with carefree personas, whilst also being rich enough to transfer properly into any era. The film borrows elements from Anderson's Oscar-nominated Boogie Nights, most notably its setting which feels like it was plucked right out of days gone just for the sake of the movie as Licorice Pizza utilises its setting magnificently with awe-inspiring recreations of long standing national landmarks and pop culture references for those born in Generation X. However, cheap nostalgia isn't the only thing Licorice Pizza has going for it as this coming-of-age joyride contains some of the most likeable and well-written characters seen on the big screen in quite some time.
Alana Haim steals the show as her self-titled spunk of a character, expressing profound emotion alongside genuine bliss throughout her complicated journey for latent love. Her performance and character arc, however, is only possible thanks to the charming display given by Cooper Hoffman; the film arguably centres around Gary as he yearns for the love of 25-year-old Alana despite their 10-year age difference, and yet he delivers a performance that never comes off creepy or disconcerting, but rather charming if anything. Other standouts include Bradley Cooper's overtly-insane depiction of Jon Peters, Sean Penn bringing his scarily-likeable charisma to Jack Holden, and Mary Elizabeth Ellis' laidback and restrained performance as Momma Anita. But when you dig into the bear bones of the film, no one delivered a bad performance and all should be praised for their outstanding efforts.
Licorice Pizza contains enough charisma, personality and tender moments of affection to be considered one of Paul Thomas Anderson's best. From the beginning the audience is introduced to a simple story which tackles much more complicated subject matters without ever specifically digging into them, allowing viewers to decipher the messages and meanings for themselves; something that not many movies allow people to do anymore. The film is carried by its incredible screenplay and direction from one of the industry's all-time great filmmakers, and if you're searching for a movie that isn't afraid to be itself, make sure to grab a slice of Licorice Pizza whenever you can as there is a good chance this will be the 94th Best Picture winner very soon.