In the Los Angeles area in 1969, James Greenwood started a record store, remember? – he called Licorice Pizza. Greenwood had expanded his empire to 34 stores in Southern California before selling it in 1985 to the Sam Goody record store chain.
“Licorice Pizza” is also the title of the new movie written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles.
But how exactly did we get the phrase “licorice pizza?” “
Back then, in the 1950s and 1960s to be precise, folk music was all the rage, especially in San Francisco. One SF folk duo was Bud & Travis, who released an LP (vinyl, of course) that didn’t sell well. It was called “Bud & Travis … In Concert”.
Referring to the failed 1960 album, one of the duo members suggested sprinkling sesame seeds on one side of the glossy black vinyl and calling it “licorice pizza”. Ironically, their musical contract necessitated the release of “Bud & Travis In Concert, Volume 2”. How did it sell? No more “licorice pizza”.
In Anderson’s film, he brings audiences back to Los Angeles in 1973 and his young population has fun in pinball rooms, discovers the joys of sleeping in a waterbed, but also faces a shortage of gasoline. at national scale.
As with all of Anderson’s movies, the story is episodic and there is a rhythm and flow that pulls you in even when the ride is bumpy. And, it gets bumpy at times.
The story of this ode to Los Angeles revolves around a pimply-faced 15-year-old high school student named Gary Valentine.
He played a minor role, but he’s not a star by any stretch of the imagination. He doesn’t have the right teenage look. Plus, her quirky female agent is a bit of a lemon candy, sweet and sour at the same time. Her name is Mary Grady, who was a real children’s talent agent and the mother of Don Grady, a “Mickey Mouse Club” and “My Three Sons” actor. She is wonderfully performed by Harriet Sansom Harris, who played Frasier Crane’s agent in “Frasier”.
Valentine falls in love with an assistant photographer named Alana Kane. She finds him cute, like a puppy. But there won’t be any romance because, well, she’s 25. The central idea of ”Licorice Pizza” encompasses Gary’s total love for her.
He thinks he’s irresistible. She’s hot and cold as they go out on platonic dates. But Valentine’s got a knack for gossiping, which is why you’ll watch a 15-year-old start a waterbed business and open a place for pinball wizards to hang out.
Parental supervision? What is that? Her mother runs her own PR business, mostly from their home.
Most of the other characters are based on people Anderson knew growing up or are actual notable figures of the time. Valentine is based on film producer and child actor Gary Goetzman.
Jon Peters was a famous Beverly Hills hairstylist turned producer, owner of the Sony Pictures studio, and Barbra Streisand’s romantic partner for a time.
He’s played by Bradley Cooper in a bravery performance that tells you everything you need to know about ego and drugs.
And Lucille Ball shows up very early to promote a movie she’s starring in and Valentine’s in as well. This Lucy is called Lucy Doolittle, but she is a version of Ball, and she becomes a very enraged actress. Christine Ebersole is delightful in her scenes of comedy legend.
Actor-director Bennie Safdie is good at playing Joel Wachs, a true Los Angeles politician who was terrified of being portrayed as gay. Her lover is played by Joseph Cross, and the tense scene where the two chop up coded language and belong in each other’s lives is made up of great puns and some of the film’s best actors.
You’ll also see some really wacky – and delicious – performances from Sean Penn as an actor based on William Holden, singer Tom Waits as a screaming director named Rex Blau and George DiCaprio – Leonardo’s real father – as someone. ‘one by the name of Mr. Jack. Remember that name. In a cameo appearance, John C. Reilly plays Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster. Anderson’s life partner, Maya Rudolph, is also in the movie, but it’s a five-minute track that’s no fun and wastes her prodigious talent.
It’s “Licorice Pizza”, which only plays in theaters. The comedy is sometimes deaf, but when it works, it’s cutting. Valentine is played by Cooper Hoffman, who is the son of late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. It is his first role in the cinema, and his inexperience sometimes wins out over him. Hoffman needed more help from Anderson.
The real jewel in the film’s crown is musician Alana Haim as Alana, a woman with no direction in her life and a fast-talking teenager who runs after her. Haim’s verbal asides are delicious and she delivers them perfectly. The yellowish looks she gives Valentine are priceless. It is also his first role in the cinema.
The film’s 133-minute duration is felt wearily at times, and the falling flat vignettes hamper the pace. A wise cut could have been used. Grainy documentary-style cinematography is an interesting choice, but it blurs the visuals.
The musical selections are excellent and include songs from Nina Simone, Donovan, Seals And Crofts, Gordon Lightfoot, Mason Williams, The James Gang and Chris Norman and Suzi Quatro.
“Licorice Pizza” is only Anderson’s ninth feature film. Even though it lacks the polish of its masterpieces, unforgettable films such as “Boogie Nights”, “Magnolia”, “There Will Be Blood” and “Phantom Thread”, it is still a must-see movie. the adventurous movie buff.
Michael Calleri reviews films for the Niagara Gazette and the CNHI News Network. Contact him at [email protected]