Licorice Pizza Review: Do You Like Peanut Butter Sandwiches?

Licorice Pizza Review: Do You Like Peanut Butter Sandwiches?

Written and Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Sean Pean, Bradley Cooper, Tom Waits
Plot: 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.

I would be lying if I didn’t say that Licorice Pizza wasn’t at the top of my list of most anticipated movies of the year. Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the best writers/directors and I was hoping this was going to be the movie that put him over the edge.

I was even more excited because the Belcourt was running a one-night early special screening of the film in 35 MM. I was HYPED.

The story follows a 25-Year-Old (remember this) Alana Kane (Alana Haim) and a 15-Year-Old (remember this) Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman), the latter is a young ‘TV actor’ who becomes quite smitten by Alana as she is roaming the halls before Gary’s HIGH SCHOOL picture day. So, like any grown adult, Alana is flattered by this student’s keen advances, but she politely declines them and tells him that he is a teenager and she is an adult, right? WRONG!

See, from the beginning of this story, most are painting it as this cute coming-of-age story about two people falling in love, well I am sorry if that is what you took from this film. That’s gross.

First, we don’t get any backstory on Alana. Who is she? Why is she the way she is? Why is she preying upon this teenager? Is it because he is an actor? That can’t be true because she is smitten by another actor who she fancies but later dumps and fancies another guy, another guy. Still, somehow Alana always comes back and preys on this teenager.

Next, Gary Valentine is a giant 15-year-old kid actor who is full of himself. I admire his confidence in himself, but sorry folks, Gary is not easy on the eyes. Which makes the story unrealistic. Unfortunately, Gary is also a piece of garbage, and he uses those around him, friends, family, girls, women, to get what he wants out of everyone.

So we have two pieces of garbage, one is a pedophile and the other is just an asshole. Not only this, but I am supposed to fall in love with their love story? COME ON, PTA. You are better than this.

Now that I have established my issues with our two main leads let me go after Paul Thomas Anderson’s script. I have no understanding of what inspired this story. What made him sit here and decide that we needed to watch a 25-year-old creepy woman fall in love with a 15-year-old kid like a school teacher we have seen on the news? Anderson wrote this story that people have swooned over, which I find disgusting and disturbing.

More on the script, the film is often dull and disjointed. The movie is all over the place. In one minute, PTA looks like he is finally getting Alana on the right course and instead, he introduces more useless characters to use as a ploy to bring these two back together. Also, Can we talk about the blatant racism in the film? I know he said in an interview that it’s the 70’s. Thanks, captain obvious, but the way the ‘racism’ was used had zero purpose and did nothing to advance any of the trillion stories PTA had going on. What is the message he is trying to get across here? Teenage boys treat women like crap and in the end, they will fall in love with you? Or, it’s okay to prey upon teenage boys as long as you paint this cool picture of how they fall in love? I failed to connect to this story emotionally and that is something I never thought I would say with a PTA film.

You are asking by now, did you like anything, Ricky? Sure, the soundtrack, production, costumes were really good (DUH, it’s set in the 70s). The cinematography is solid for the most part. Cooper Hoffman/Alana Haim’s performances were fine and the relatively brief moments we get out of Bradley Cooper are phenomenal. Other than that, no, I didn’t like much else.

Licorice Pizza is the second movie that I have watched this week where I have seen an older person prey upon a person underage. I hope this doesn’t begin any trend because this is stuff that doesn’t belong on the big screen unless we are telling a true story of something that happened in real life. The movie isn’t just a massive letdown, it is one of the worst screenplays of the year. I have zero understanding why this movie is getting any love. I will be upset if the Academy decides to give this movie any awards recognition because it deserves none.

The Verdict: D-

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