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Saturday, December 25, 2021

Licorice Pizza 2021 * 1/2 Stars


The odd title of 2021's Licorice Pizza doesn't add up to much. Licorice Pizza the movie? Well it doesn't add up to much either. The film's blueprint involves a 15-year-old boy and a 25-year-old girl hanging out together in Southern California circa 1973. Why these two would ever have anything to do with each other or even be attracted to each other is well, beyond me. 

So yeah, Licorice Pizza is a comedy-drama that saunters and irks. It's like a series of random, "Me Decade" scenes that sort of taper off into the wind. The leads (Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman) are not horrible, they're just dupes of automation. They begrudgingly do whatever Paul Thomas Anderson's implausible screenplay tells them to. 

Speaking of Anderson, well he's the director. Once the boy genius behind my favorite flick of all time (Boogie Nights), Paul Thomas Anderson has now regressed to the point of jumbled-ness. With Licorice Pizza, he dips back into the 70s again butchering the almighty cinematic form. There's no continuity, no lucid story, no scripted 411.

So OK, Anderson knows where to put the camera and yeah, his soundtracks are earthy and retro (this one is good but lacks a little freshness). Still, you can't help but wish PTA would spend two-plus hours on something more than a messy, bipolar character study. In truth, I was annoyed by Alana Haim's Alana Kane to the point where I wanted to shake the wishy-washy out of her. I mean what a royal pain in the butt. 

Per the last paragraph, I said that Licorice Pizza was a messy film. True dat. It could learn age-old wisdom from a tidy one. Licorice Pizza is also cock and bull film. I mean you'd have to believe that Hoffman's Gary Valentine could own a pinball arcade, successfully mack on a twentysomething, and manage a waterbed factory as a blackhead juvenile. Wha?? 

Add pointless cameos (I'm talking to you Bradley Cooper and Sean Penn) and fading personas whose plot threads add to nil and you have the movie equivalent of a failed competitor on The Gong Show. "Hold the anchovies". 

Written by Jesse Burleson

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