Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman in Licorice Pizza
Movie Title: Licorice Pizza
Paul thomas anderson
Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Sean Penn, Tom Waits, Bradley Cooper, Benny Safdie, Joseph Cross, Christine Ebersole, Mary Elizabeth Ellis
Duration of operation: 133 min
You don’t have to have lived in 1973 to appreciate the cultural divide that existed between the United States and these islands (much larger than the current gulf). But it helps. Paul Thomas Anderson’s thrilling and evocative new film is truly set in a whole different country. Back in the San Fernando Valley he explored in Boogie Nights, he reminds us of just how Things The Americans had then. And the possibilities.
Based on the youth of Gary Goetzman, a child actor who grew up to be Tom Hanks’ business partner, Licorice Pizza follows precocious 15-year-old Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) as he moves from juvenile tracks to sale of waterbeds in the suburbs adjacent to Los Angeles. He meets an older girl. He rubs shoulders with Hollywood producers. He’s really making money. None of this would have been conceivable on the other side of the Atlantic in the same year. “America’s business is business,” Calvin Coolidge didn’t quite say. And the sex. And the glory. And movies. (At least in California.)
However, Licorice Pizza does not take place in some kind of romance. There is a clear parallel here to Cameron Crowe’s less interesting film Almost Famous. Unlike the hero of this film, Gary isn’t scolded by any distraught parent, but there is a sense of unease throughout this pleasantly curvy image. We start with a fabulous long single take – less flashy than the opening to Boogie Nights – in which Gary meets Alana Kane (Alana Haim), a photographer’s assistant, at school and moves into the gym to take his Photo. Even at this early stage, we are aware that this is hostile territory for humans in the 21st century. The English photographer (where would he be from then?) Slaps her ass in the process and she barely registers the assault. Should we be worried that a romance seems to be brewing between a teenager and an adult woman? Perhaps it was Sweden in the 15th century as well.
Sean Penn has a superb turn as a ghastly, faded movie star who spends his evenings reliving old glories at area cocktail bars
There have been reviews of a scene in which John Michael Higgins, playing a big-mouthed restaurateur, speaks with an absurd Japanese accent to two successive wives from this country. But it seems too specific not to have been taken from real life. Also, humor clearly depends on both the absurdity and the inappropriateness of its choice. We are everywhere exposed to a world that does not know what to do with the cultural rearrangements inherited from the 1960s.
Sean Penn has a superb turn as a ghastly, faded movie star – he’s neither William Holden nor Steve McQueen, but nods are made in those directions – who spends his evening reliving old glories in bars neighborhood cocktails. Bradley Cooper is even better as Jon Peters, producer and boyfriend of Barbra Streisand, who ogles Alana and rejects Gary. Everywhere we feel that while there is a lot of fun to be had, jarring personal and societal corrections are on the way.
For now, we can sink into a partial celebration of the cliffside chaos of the most trusted American director of his generation. Cut to contemporary needle drops that always streak and rarely give the obvious (Life on Mars is a darker trail in the US than here), the image alternates easy walks with an unprecedented amount. of frantic racing. It was like that before cell phones. Anderson and Michael Bauman shoot in 35mm with vintage lenses to further immerse us in the mood of late Nixon.
Haim, whose sisters of the pop group of the same name appear with their parents, and Hoffman, son of Philip Seymour Hoffman, could hardly be in a more satisfying harmony. Hoffman gives us a child a few nanometers away in his comfort zone. Haim’s character knows she lives in madness, but can’t help but get carried away.
One can hardly imagine a more pleasant and chaotic way to welcome the New Year. What an explosion.
Opening January 1st