Paul Thomas Anderson is up for two Oscar nods for direction and writing and his film “Licorice Pizza” is up for Best Film. Do they deserve they nomination….?
Licorice Pizza, follows fifteen year-old entrepreneur Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) who falls for the assistant to his high school photographer Alana Kane (Alana Haim) twenty- five. From friendship, to going into business together in the beginning of the waterbed and pinball machine crazes, to the fuel shortage and a election campaign in the San Fernando Valley, this coming of age story shows life in the valley of Encino, California in the 70’s.
The beginning is hard to believe because Gary is a former child star and Hoffman is greasy haired, pimply and chubby, not exactly child star material, Gary’s lofty ambitions often employee his little brother. His mom’s (Mary Elizabeth Ellis) apparently works for him, but we never see a father. Why Alana falls for Gary is also a little unbelievable considering the age gap.
What this film has is some amazing character roles. Christine Ebersole as Lucille Doolittle, a TV and movie icon clearly modeled after Lucille Ball. In one scene Alana wants to try acting so Gary takes her to his talent agent (Harriet Sansom Harris). My favorite scene is with Sean Penn, who plays a character based on William Holden gets together with Tom Waits as a crazed director. This scene is when the film truly comes to life. Another memorable scene is when Gary and Alana deliver a waterbed to a crazed, sex obsessed Jon Peters (Bradley Cooper) and things go array.
The visual storytelling using cinematography, lighting and 35mm film evoking this era is timeless. This film brings to mind George Lucas’ American Graffiti and Harold and Maude.
What I loved most about Licorice Pizza is the fabulous soundtrack from Todd Rundgren, Sonny & Cher, David Bowie, Clarence Carter and Blood, Sweat & Tears.
Both Haim and Hoffman make their film debuts here, and they are realistic, natural and believable. As a matter of fact the whole Haim family (the band) appears as versions of themselves. The film could have used some editing as 133 minutes is way too long.
Sweet, charming, yes, Best Picture….no!