Licorice Pizza (2021)
January 6, 2022 2:00 PM - Subscribe

A precocious former child TV star meets and forms an unlikely friendship-possible-relationship with a 25 year old woman in early 1970s San Fernando Valley.

Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson's love letter to the valley and era of his youth features star-making performances from Alana Haim (of Haim the band), and Cooper Hoffman, the son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. Plus wild appearances from Sean Penn, Tom Waits, and Bradley Cooper.

Christy Lemire for "It’s also wildly unexpected from one moment to the next as Anderson masterfully navigates tonal shifts from absurd humor to tender romance with a couple of legitimate action sequences thrown in between. “Licorice Pizza” meanders in the best possible way: You never know where it’s going but you can’t wait to find out where it’ll end up, and when it’s over, you won’t want it to end. "
posted by dnash (23 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm from the Valley and because of the pandemic this is actually the longest time in my life I've ever spent without returning to the Valley, and I'm resisting watching this movie because I'm not sure if I can emotionally handle Valley stuff right now. But part of me really wants to luxuriate in homesickness! If you've seen it, how "Valley" is it really?
posted by potrzebie at 2:40 PM on January 6, 2022

The most fun I've had at the movies in a long time. In some ways, it's kind of the anti-Boogie Nights.
posted by spudsilo at 4:38 PM on January 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

I haven't been to the Valley, so I can't attest to that, but I can vouch for this being extremely 1970s. Water beds. Long lines for gas stations. TV variety shows. Old fashioned "bar and grills" with names like "Tail O' the Cock."
posted by dnash at 1:00 PM on January 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

I loved it: a delicious joyful meal. The most accessible PTA movie by a country mile. I also understand the backlash about the Asian accent bit, but don’t really have anything else to say about it. I loved the movie, that’s all.

Seeing at the Alamo, they had a brief interview blip from Jon Brion about how Anderson had wanted Punch-Drunk Love to be like “a musical where no one actually breaks into song”, and that felt like it opened up my eyes on his catalog a bit for me: big! emotions! everywhere! that no one can quite say.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:55 AM on February 1, 2022

The truck scene was dang amazing, especially after the motorcycle scene. Real risk vs. fake risk. Just great.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:56 AM on February 1, 2022

I will say that every time I see Skyler Gisondo I just think “Hey! Guy from The Santa Clarita Diet) He’s gonna be that teen forever, George Michael / Michael Cera levels of association here.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:32 PM on February 1, 2022

This was a pretty nostalgic romp for me. I was raised in the valley, on the northern end rather than the southern end, where much of this story seems to take place. Many movies can do the retro look of the 1970s San Fernando Valley without problem, but few capture what it was like for kids. It does seem to hit on some of the spirit of the place and time, where a lot of kids seemed to really be more feral and enjoy/suffer a great deal of independence from parental supervision. The only other movie I can think of off the top of my head that really got that feel was a movie of the time, The Bad News Bears.

But this was fun. I had no idea where the story was heading, and it kind of doesn't matter, because it feels more about the spirit of the time than the actual events that happened. There's a lot that's improbable, such as a 25 year old woman and a 15 year old boy, but let me tell you, it was a weird time and place and it wouldn't have surprised me.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:29 PM on February 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Several now defunct LA/ east valley businesses are depicted : Thrifty Drug ( a free standing store in its 1973 location; the movie has it in a strip mall...when it later moved to one it smelled exactly the same) Pic and Save ( the one I remember was set back from the street by a parking lot, not adjacent to the sidewalk), Tail o' the Cock ( my grandparents took me there in the late 70s).

The Licorice Pizza record store " the tastiest music in town" is not....though several pop up tie in stores opened when the movie did.
posted by brujita at 11:26 PM on March 4, 2022

That felt like..."what if Paul Thomas Anderson did Rushmore".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:02 PM on March 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

I was thinking what if PTA did Moonrise Kingdom.
posted by fleacircus at 3:39 AM on March 25, 2022

Nah, the kids in Moonrise Kingdom were always into each other; Alana is a lot more like Rosemary Cross, who wasn't into Max Fischer. (At least - that's the way it looked like it was going until the very end, and I'm still a little annoyed about that.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:28 AM on March 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

Oh, I have no interest in the comparison tbh, I just thought it was funny that when I got here someone had said something similar to what I was going to say.

HOWEVER: I thought Alana was pretty clearly into Gary (if in conflicted, dramatically wavering ways) through almost all of this movie. So, strong disagree, I guess, about levels of into-ness here.
posted by fleacircus at 8:06 AM on March 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

Fair, but it still falls short of the mutuality in Moonrise Kingdom even so. Although I also twigged to Rushmore because Max Fischer's various school clubs reminded me of Gary's many different get-rich-quick plans and I also spotted the same precocious schmoozing with adults.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:14 AM on March 25, 2022

(And TBH I would have preferred they NOT get together in the end - Alana was on her way to a more "adult" friend circle and it even looked like something was starting up with the campaign manager for the mayor and I would have bought that even more.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:16 AM on March 25, 2022

Watched this last night without knowing anything about it and was enjoying it enough on a superficial yay 70s nostalgia and beautiful 70s film stock kind of level but then that racist restaurant dude scene came and we were like "what in the actual fuck?" And then they did it AGAIN? No idea what the deal was with dropping that shit in out of nowhere and then completely not dealing with it. Couldn't really get past that.
posted by chococat at 2:54 PM on March 27, 2022

This film could have done without the racist shit and, probably, without the relationship between and 15 year old and a 25 year old. Imagine if this had been about a 25yo MAN and a 15yo GIRL?!

Other than that, I really liked the film. But because of the above, I have a hard time recommending it.
posted by crossoverman at 8:37 PM on March 27, 2022

(And TBH I would have preferred they NOT get together in the end - Alana was on her way to a more "adult" friend circle and it even looked like something was starting up with the campaign manager for the mayor and I would have bought that even more.)

My vibe at the end, though there is nothing in the film to support it, was that whatever romance is being theorized at the end will probably just end - ships passing in the night, two people becoming adults in the seventies.

But because of the above, I have a hard time recommending it.

If you’re uncomfortable w/ Alana and Gary’s relationship, it feels like there’s probably not much of the movie left for you…
posted by Going To Maine at 10:51 PM on March 27, 2022

*No idea what the deal was with dropping that shit in out of nowhere and then completely not dealing with it. Couldn't really get past that.

I find the “not dealing with it” point a bit confusing here - what would “dealing with it” be? A character on screen going “yo, that’s some racism!” would feel very out of place itself. While I do think not trying to touch the third rail of race for some of the painfully awkward humor that PTA loves at all would have been a better choice, the nullification of the wives and the unwillingness to acknowledge racism both feel extremely correct to the grimy version of the valley that Anderson is painting here.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:02 PM on March 27, 2022

Not dealing with it in the sense that it's just thrown in there, no context, no agency for the Japanese women in either scene, just "here's some racism!" tossed off as a joke. Why is it even in there?
During the first racist-guy scene, my wife and I looked at each other like "huh?" and we thought they must be setting something up for some kind of payoff. Or something. But then later hey here he is with his wife again but it's a totally different woman who also doesn't deserve subtitles and the big payoff is "what was she saying?" "I don't know, I don't speak Japanese" HAHAHAHAHA what the fuck?
Racism is bad! Okay back to the main, white characters *YAY, FUN TODD RUNDGREN SONG*

Painfully awkwardly funny gritty realism (funny for who? painful for who?) or whatever PTA's intention was, it took me right out of the movie and just made me think "wow, gross" for the rest of it.
So of course after the movie I wanted to look up how people felt about the film.
I've really appreciated Nancy Wang Yuen, Jen Yamato, and David Chen's writing on this, and particularly David Chen's video about the scenes and his experience as an Asian American person watching these scenes while a mostly white audience is laughing: "It really fucking sucks."
posted by chococat at 9:12 AM on March 28, 2022 [2 favorites]

Not dealing with it in the sense that it's just thrown in there, no context, no agency for the Japanese women in either scene, just "here's some racism!" tossed off as a joke. Why is it even in there?

I think the answer to why it’s in there is that that character is a reference to the real person Jerry Frick, who ran the real restaurant The Mikado; there are other specific references to real places and people throughout (e.g Tail O’ The Cock), and Anderson wanted to throw in as many “true-ish” things as possible. And, as I said above, I think that since the general context of the film is men being immature hustlers who are skeezy towards women, the scene as constructed furthers that point. As noted in Chen’s video, Anderson claims to misguidedly assumed it would be scan as a “laugh at the racism” scene rather than a “maybe we are laughing with the racism” scene.

All that said, this isn’t a justification for Anderson’s choice since a) in reality Frick did speak Japanese, and b) according to a secondary account I’ve seen (as I don’t speak Japanese) the two Ms. Fricks respond to his questions accurately and he doesn’t mistranslate their reactions (so presumably does speak Japanese? Or they do? It’s… strange.) It feels like Anderson suborned the truth for his theme when he could have just left that bit out or even -talented director that he is- have fitted Frick’s actual relationship with his wives into the context of men and women relating to each other. It was a poor choice.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:24 AM on March 28, 2022

I suppose my long-winded response comes down to the word “context” - in the “context” of the film as experienced when the scene happens, it’s a wild out of nowhere moment. In the “context” of the film as a whole, it feels like a bad choice that works towards the coherence of the whole.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:36 AM on March 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

I remember the irl mikado from the late 70s through the 90s as a best western franchise run by a Japanese-American family. Friends of the family would stay there when they visited and I did a few times when I didn't feel safe at my apartment.

It is now independent and the former on-site Japanese restaurant is a tiki bar.
posted by brujita at 11:41 PM on April 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

A simple edit could fix those Jerry Frick scenes. When he pulled that racist shit with his first wife I was also thrown. But I went with it because the 70s were totally racist and in context I could absolutely believe shit like that would happen. And the whole movie rides on the pretext of the unexpected; it's supposed to be a wild ride in a wild time at a wild age. But the second Frick scene was a mistake. When I saw he had a new wife I thought, of course he does. The first grew tired of his racist shit and left him. I thought that was the joke. Instead they double down and he's still a racist asshole to second wife. All PTA had to do is have him respond to his second wife in earnest but awkward Japanese, which would have been closer to the actual Jerry Frick and maybe made a statement about cross cultural marriages of the time. It was right there and he missed it.

I want to get back to the age differences. In the truck scene with Alana, Gary, and Jon Peters going to the gas station, when Alana first answers Jon's question about her age, she says 28. It's hard to hear because the the truck is loud, but use the subtitles. Then she repeats it as 25. So 28 and 15. Yet I wasn't creeped out about it. Again, in context that wouldn't have been even frowned upon in the 70s. It's all an absurd abstraction anyway. Neither character looks their age so the numbers seem arbitrary. I might have changed it to 17 and 28 which I think is less distracting and which the actors might have been better at selling. Just a few notes for PTA because why not. He doesn't give a shit what I think.
posted by Stanczyk at 5:55 PM on August 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

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