7/10 Upon re-watching the entire filmography of writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, I was reminded of what a…master…the man is. While not all of his films are masterpieces, films like “Boogie Nights”, “Magnolia” and “There Will Be Blood” could be considered so and I even gave his last film, “Phantom Thread” a 9/10 and had it in the 10 Best Films of 2017. Anderson is able to juggle sprawling, diverse casts of characters and give them all appropriate time to develop and breathe while also showing that Jonny Greenwood is one of the best and most underrated modern day film composers. With his latest, “Licorice Pizza”, Anderson gives us something more along the lines of “Punch Drunk Love”, a film that is good but not great and is more emotionally sweet and enduring than most of his films. “Licorice Pizza” is almost a companion piece to Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood”. Both writer/directors made films in the late 1960’s/early 1970s in California, where they grew up, filled with nostalgia and large casts as a love letter to their respective CA cities. But while Tarantino went for fictional history filled with violence, Anderson goes for a love story between two young people. One of the best things to come out of the film are the two leading performances from Alana Haim (of the band Haim) and Cooper Hoffman, son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, who worked on almost all of Anderson’s films before his untimely death. Both Hoffman and Haim are wonderful, with Haim really standing out for me the most. Speaking of regular Anderson collaborators, there is a “blink and you’ll miss it” John C. Reilly cameo which was brief but enjoyable. In regards to what works, the cast is brilliant with even supporting performances from Bradley Cooper, Sean Penn, Tom Waits, etc. not lasting very long but making an impact while on screen. Greenwood’s score is beautiful even though it is very limited as 95% of the music comes from the soundtrack, which perfectly fit with the time period. The recreation of the setting through production and costume design were perfect and put you in the right mindset for the story. Young love is definitely a nostalgic thing to think about and there is a sweetness to the film. The only couple of problems do fall within the story and pacing, however. The film basically has Hoffman’s character Gary fall for Haim’s Alana but she likes another guy. Then when she likes Gary, he has another girl. This cycle repeats back and forth and became a bit repetitive and frustrating as it went on for over two hours. I just kept waiting for Alana (the more vocal and outspoken when it comes to their friendship) to yell at Gary that they both liked each other so they should just be together already. The back and forth got a little bit annoying for sure. The film also does drag on a little bit too long with some trimming needed to happen to tighten things up which would have helped with the film’s repetitive nature. Finally, while the story and relationship is rather sweet, if you stop and think about it, this is a love story between a 25-year-old woman and a 15-year-old boy, which is actually creepy when you stop and reflect upon it. While the age gap will matter less over time as the two grow older, since Gary is three years underage and Alana is easily able to get men of age, there is a tinge of creepiness to the whole situation. Despite the frustratingly repetitive nature of the story, the creepy factor of the age gap and the film running a little too long, this is still a good film worth seeking out for a nostalgic love story. The performances will make stars out of Hoffman and Haim, the score/soundtrack are perfect, the production/costume design will transport you back in time and you will be thoroughly entertained from start to finish. Pineapples may not belong on pizza, but apparently licorice does.

#CallMeByYourHaim / #HoldenOnToLove / #TomWaitsForNoOne / #TheKidsUnderTheRoof / #FatBernie1973 / #StrangeWaterBedFellows

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