Licorice Pizza **1/2

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I still think Paul Thomas Anderson peaked with Magnolia (1999), but everything afterward sparks the same anticipation we give Quentin Tarantino films. We’re curious because these movies behave like postmodern disobediences to the greats (Scorsese, Lumet, Leone, Altman), but they can’t help but be influenced by them either. In a way, they simply meander. 

From extremely personal reminiscences to MacGuffins and randomness, PTA’s post-Magnolia films intrigue us while also not saying a whole lot (There Will Be Blood: Daniel Day-Lewis’s character is very greedy and evil; The Master: Cults are scary and monotonous; Inherent Vice: Neo-noirs can disappoint; Phantom Thread: A muse is a beautiful thing). If they say anything, they speak more to their creator than the audience, but at least they are more original in premise and atmosphere than most movies out there.

Comparisons to Cameron Crowe conceptions, Harold and Maude (1971), or anything Richard Linklater are unfair. Licorice Pizza distinguishes itself in a dreaminess only PTA knows best. You can’t help but think people really don’t talk this way (in the 70s, nor today), the San Fernando Valley is viewed through a literal and emblematic rose-colored lens, and its controversial premise—a 15-year-old boy and a 25-year-old woman fall for each other—is inappropriate and yet simultaneously fitting in an atmosphere only captured in a (boy’s) dream (or, a Paul Thomas Anderson film).

Really, like Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, this is an all-encompassing PT Anderson pet project—inside jokes, two meaningless diversions (the Bradley Cooper and Harriet Sansom scenes), inapposite (and racist) inclusions, and all. PT might have enjoyed his trip meandering down memory lane, but the audience is left behind after 90 minutes.

I wanted so badly for this to be in my Top Ten of 2021, but it left a bad aftertaste.

12 thoughts on “Licorice Pizza **1/2

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  1. Happy New Year! I’ll argue the toss about this one, I hated pretty much everything sicne Magnolia, but for me, this is Anderson back to top form. The relationship isn’t portrayed as sexual until long after the young man is of age, so I never really thought of it as inappropriate. But I found the inside allusions to Holden and Peters to be facinating, and the comic set pieces really worked for me. Anderson has been off the boil for a while, and I think his audience may well have moved on, but for those still keeping the flame, this was a welcome warm and fuzzy…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy New Year back atcha! I’m glad to know I’m not alone when it comes to post Magnolia disappointment in PTA. Regarding this one, I wanted to like it more, but the detours – the Lucille Dolittle interview, Sean Penn escapade, and outrageously fun but extremely unnecessary (but, like you mentioned in your review, a homage to the Alfred Molina scene in Boogie Nights) – interfered more with than contributed to the believable and endearing relationship between our unlikely protagonist duo. I don’t think I’m far off when I say it meanders, and meandering works if it has a point to its meandering (I think of the movie, Somewhere or anything Jim Jarmusch). But, this one too often strayed away from the focal relationship and with very little reason. I’m glad you got the warm fuzzies. I wasn’t as receptive to them by the 100-minute point.


  2. Yeahhhhh I’m still not quite sure what to think of the age gap between the characters. Until I see it, that seems to be a choice that’s kind of icky. Another reviewer also had an issue with it. Not sure what PTA is doing there, but I always enjoy his expansive storytelling. Magnolia is a movie I didn’t fully appreciate when I first saw it but that’s a legitimate masterpiece. But so is There Will be Blood and Boogie Nights.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m looking forward to seeing this. PTA peaked in my opinion with There Will Be Blood and his penultimate Phantom Thread (the latter is up there with Remains of the Day). Magnolia for me was a bit overdone, some great scenes, but just trying to do too much.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. PTA isn’t quite a polemic, but he is a grandioso hit or miss, depending on your preferences. I really wanted to like this more, but it continues to irritate me the day after viewing. Yet, it’s also a must-see for 2021, haha

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Have hopes for this. Still haven’t seen. Clearly a bummer trip for you.

    Hard to imagine anything much more meandering and bewildering than “Inherent Vice”.

    Speaking of Top 10, any hint as to your fave flick of ’21?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading, and, yes, I was bummed by this one. Maybe my expectations were too high. Nothing will be Magnolia for me. Regarding this year, it’s gotta be DUNE! Still enthralled by that one. How about you?

      Liked by 1 person

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