For film aficionados, there are many fascinating deep-dive details and easter eggs around the casting and backstory of the film’s inspiration; an entire additional level of entertainment is available by digging into those stories. But that isn’t necessary to enjoy the narrative, which stands on its own without embellishment. Chiefly, the simple, goofy outsider relationship of Gary and Alana as they cement their bond with shared adventures is breezy.
Wading into the deep sea of discussing the oeuvre of Paul Thomas Anderson is a complex endeavor, fraught with the dangers of angering his fans and detractors, both of which he has many. He’s made films that don’t work so well (i.e., The Master), but also films that literally define contemporary cinema. Most of his output is among the finest films ever made. Even his misfires contain moments of pure genius. He’s also not afraid to change up his style. Compare the relative chaos of a film like Punch Drunk Love to the absolute precision of The Phantom Thread.
“…one of the finest filmmakers of our time at the top of his game.”
Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood and Licorice Pizza are cut from the same cloth. Both are warm reminiscences of crazy events in the only place and time where these misadventures would be possible. The stories are fueled by the wildly inappropriate behavior of certain people who should never have had access to money, drugs, and power. Yet, despite all that, the filmmaker can’t hide his love for the city, the time, and the business. It’s clear that underneath the cynicism and awfulness of the business part of Hollywood, even the most jaded showbiz types still believe in the magic.
Anderson’s influences are said to be American Graffiti and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, both also set in the San Fernando Valley, but his style borrows from Dazed and Confused. Licorice Pizza is a love letter to a time and place. For the audience, whether you care about the details of movieland or not, the film is a delight as Gary and Alana’s coming of age is a sweet tale. The music is perfect, the side stories are wild, and you can revel in the art of one of the finest filmmakers of our time at the top of his game.
"…warm reminiscences of crazy events in the only place and time where these misadventures would be possible."