An honest review of Licorice Pizza
It's a good film - Vol. 33
told lied to myself that I would commit to reading one book per month for the entirety of 2022 and I haven’t even considered picking up the title I’m currently reading… amazing of me, truly. Rest in peace André Leon Talley.
As for Digital Future Magazine news: I’m currently scheduling two interviews that will go live on the site before the month ends and they are both musical in nature. I’m also going to get back to the singular publishing project I’ve been working on with two amazing writers and hopefully, that goes to print in a few months.
We will have a new collaboration offering in the store by the end of the month and we will focus on more editorial content until the summer.
We're still looking for contributors, so please get in touch with us if you'd like to pitch us an idea!
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A Review: Licorice Pizza dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
I tried to avoid reading anything about this film before going to see it but it was an impossible task, an uphill battle even. The tweets started pouring in and didn’t stop for weeks, some valid criticisms but most seemed like faux outrage. It was difficult to decern what was honest and what was opportunistic in nature but it’s usually quite easy once your eye and ear are trained well enough.
The narrative is that of teenage angst, romance, and maybe even ‘coming of age’ but more so the disillusionment of nostalgia. Things we usually remember fondly about the past were actually probably less interesting and maybe even worse than how we remember them.
The plot follows child actor Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman), a 15-year-old high school sophomore (or maybe even a junior), and their relationship with Alana Kane (Alana Haim) who is a 25-year-old photo assistant of the person taking the high school yearbook photos. The plot is essentially the progression of their friendship as Gary is an annoying but charming pest who is trying to woo Alana by superficial and material means but Alana is an attention-starved-twenty-something who still lives at home and is looking for any possible out of their boring existence and uses Gary for any sort of excitement. It’s the sort of toxic friendship that ebbs and flows with each person lacking enthusiasm at different times. The timing is just never right.
The story peaks and falls flat from beginning to end with notable moments being when Alana meets William Holden (Sean Penn) at an acting audition and chaos ensues when he goes to jump a motorcycle outside a restaurant with her on the back, then later when Gary, Alana, and their group of friends meet the ever so flamboyant Jon Peters (Bradley Cooper) and finally when Joel Wachs (Benny Safdie) is introduced. At times it feels long and even boring but it’s a beautifully directed film. I will spare the gritty details of the plot as I wanted to share my thoughts on the two main points of criticism.
The age gap between Gary and Alana
Shannon and I have discussed in-depth the overarching narrative of a possible teen boy fantasy land and we both agree the film was being told and maybe even remembered by Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) who proves to be an unreliable narrator. Alana’s age is a question mark as there were multiple instances where she misremembered how old she was which could mean she was either lying (to make herself seem older or more important) or Gary never truly knew how old she was. The relationship for the most part was pretty harmless and mainly pursued by Gary making it feel less than insidious. There is also the question of historical accuracy as it seemed like these types of relationships seemed more culturally acceptable in the 70s which doesn’t make it any less wrong but it is a movie after all.
Alana felt desperate for attention at times and Gary was more than happy to answer the call. There were two times when Alana asks her friends and sisters if it’s weird that she hangs out with Gary and his young group of friends which everyone seems to hold a laissez-faire attitude towards.
I think what makes this film interesting is how our theory doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility as Gary loves to embellish and make himself seem more interesting. Is it really so hard to believe that he made this all up or at the very least is misremembering the details to make a more salacious story?
Throughout the film, Gary seeks guidance from Jerry Frick (John Michael Higgins) who is a white man who runs Mikado Hotel and Restaurant which serves Japanese cuisine. Several times throughout the film he uses a very disturbing and outlandish accent only when speaking to his wife Mioko and one other Japanese woman, which at face value is prejudiced and borderline racist. The main criticisms seem to ask was this necessary? And if so, why? Disclaimer: I haven’t actually read any longer form pieces on the criticism as I only know of the existence of them through Twitter but my analysis is I think PTA was possibly using this space to critique things that may have been culturally acceptable at the time? I was cringing every time I had to watch and listen to Jerry do it and I think that may have been the point.
Was it 100% necessary for this to happen to get the point across? No, but was it effective? Yeah, sure. Racism in America existed then and exists now, should it be wrong to depict it in film even if it makes us uncomfortable? I’m still wrestling with this concept as I haven’t read a lot into it but I do believe James Baldwin talks about it so I will start there. I think it’s necessary to not shield those from our reality but I don’t wish to speak for communities that I may not be a part of.
With the above items taken into consideration, I still really enjoyed my time in the theatre. I thought Hoffman and Haim were incredibly charming and equal amounts likable and hateable. I liked seeing the actors bear their physical blemishes and other things that people may deem ‘undesirable’, it was quite refreshing.
I had to wrestle with the fact I could relate as I found myself in more than one of those relationships as a young 15-year-old boy. I hope people in the future take a more calculated approach to the things they criticize as not everything is meant to be liked by you and not every artist should try to cater to everyone as forceful overcorrection feels just as sinister as being openly problematic.
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Here are some things I'm watching on eBay
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That’s it for this week! Peace and love.