"Licorice Pizza" (2021) | Sam Gall Movie Review Issue #159 Gem Mint 10

Updated: Jan 9

"Licorice Pizza" (2021)

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson

Starring: Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Sean Penn, Tom Waits, Bradley Cooper, Benny Safdie, Will Angarola, Griff Giacchino, James F. Kelley, Dexter Demme, River Cornwell, Harrison Bray, Sasha Spielberg

Rated: R for language, sexual material and some drug use

Runtime: 2h 13m

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Country: United States

Language: English

Available on: Various VOD platforms / Dec 26 in theaters

"The story of Alana Kane and Gary Valentine growing up, running around and going through the treacherous navigation of first love in the San Fernando Valley, 1973."

You might like this if you like: Comedies, Dramas, Romance, Paul Thomas Anderson, Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Sean Penn, Tom Waits, Bradley Cooper, Benny Safdie, Will Angarola, Griff Giacchino, James F. Kelley, Dexter Demme, River Cornwell, Harrison Bray, Sasha Spielberg

Alana Haim (left) & Cooper Hoffman (right) in "Licorice Pizza" (2021)

I’m definitely a Paul Thomas Anderson fan and was really looking forward to this one. I avoided the trailer and wanted to go in dark and I really enjoyed it. I don’t think it’s beat my favorite of his films, but was a nice change of pace from his darker ones he’s done lately which I don’t love as much, but it did end up being in my favorites with Boogie Nights, Hard Eight and Punch Drunk Love.

I think the only thing I knew going in was about the lead actors being newcomers and was looking forward to seeing how they’d do in PT’s latest film. I loved them both, especially their untraditional looks, but as I’ve felt with a lot of the ‘Oscar’ contenders I’ve seen they felt like they’ve been lacking people of color in significant roles. I get that it’s the acting business (not that it should be this way), but I could very much tell this was directed by a white male. Especially how Alana Haim’s character was written and directed. Also, yes, her character being much too old for Cooper Hoffman's character who's supposed to be 15 was a bit too much for me. It could’ve been worse and I’ve certainly witnessed much worse in many other films, but I guess I expected a little more from PT and felt the story didn’t need a lot of what I saw.

Alana Haim in "Licorice Pizza" (2021)

I also wasn’t feeling any of the scenes with John Michael Higgins character felt like they were just there to make fun of his Japanese wives, himself too, but when that’s all they get.. it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Especially after hearing about how much PT Anderson loved ‘Shang Chi’, I once again, expected more.

Cooper Hoffman in "Licorice Pizza" (2021)

Would love to know if anyone else felt this way about Alana or the Japanese wive’s roles in the film.

It does still feel like the start of a beautiful career for Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman. Haim especially, I love her lisp. I don’t think I’ve seen an actor in a leading role like that. Just adds to her uniqueness for me. And no, Samuel L. Jackson in ‘The Kingsman’ doesn’t count.

Dominic Cooper (left) & Alana Haim (right) in "Licorice Pizza" (2021)

Despite my problems I have with the film, it still ranks up there with something worth seeing. Alana Haim really does a fantastic job, beautifully shot as expected, the art direction and set design is gorgeous, definitely feels like Paul Thomas Anderson’s stab at a ‘Once Upon a Time.. In Hollywood’.

Written by Sam Gall on Dec 21, 2021

CGC Grading: Gem Mint 10.0

"Neither Haim, a member of the band Haim, nor Hoffman, the son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, have acted before." - Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic

"Watching "Licorice Pizza" is simultaneously like watching life with all the boring parts cut out and like watching movies with all the phony parts cut out. I can't even guess how anyone could do both things at once, but Anderson did it." - Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

"Watch the best film of 2021 wherever and whenever you can, and be thankful there is still plenty of beauty in this world to go 'round." - Barry Hertz, Globe and Mail

"With shades of Robert Altman's freewheeling spirit, 'Licorice Pizza' gains momentum as its ambles along, resulting in Anderson's gentlest, most endearing picture to date." - Tim Grierson, Screen International

Official Trailer:

Behind the Scenes:

#MovieReview #LicoricePizza #PaulThomasAnderson #PTAnderson #AlanaHaim #SeanPenn #TomWaits #BradleyCooper #BennySafdie

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