Why Paul Thomas Anderson’s Pizza Licorice is a love story against love


Licorice pizza there are many things: the sun-soaked paean LA of the 1970s; serious exploration of first love; a cheerful juvenile gift to the screwball cinema; Tinseltown’s stupid and voyeuristic backstage. Above all Paul Thomas AndersonThe latest film is a journey of oneself disguised as a romance about adulthood.

We open a meeting-cute, which is the least likely of its kind: she’s an assistant photographer on his high school painting day. Gary Valentine (COM)Cooper Hoffman, son of the late great Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is a premature 15-year-old former child actor who is in the doggy affection of Alana KaneAlana Haim, from the Haim group), a firecracker in the style of Barbara Stanwyck. Alana is full of resistance in rolling the eyes of the 25-year-old, who has become the subject of male teenage lust but never becomes a one-note fantasy. Her gaze is central.

Despite the age difference, the swirling chemistry between them is obvious. With Gary, Alana is dazzling as she puts him and his childish acting charm in place with a trait not on display when near strong, older men. They bounce off each other like a pinball machine.

With Alan, Gary is lovingly confident and brings her to his worlds, whether it’s a Hollywood venture as his companion, a water bed saleswoman at his store, or helping her accept her dream of becoming an actress. Both are at odds with each other; she is an example of a stagnation in development, he speaks as if he were Frank Sinatra, but he cannot show anything stronger than ordering two Coca-Cola bars.

Many viewers on social media platforms have recently ridiculed the film’s age difference (Gary is a minor) as “problematic,” and some have even cited it as “Predatory” and at risk “glamorous pedophilia”.”. But the dynamics of want-not-they don’t hang over the film, nor is it the point. Instead, the film uses an unusual relationship as a way to explore what Anderson describes as the “sticky things” of growing up – the parts of us that we have with age, such as youthful optimism or the terrible pleasure of falling in love. Within this, Anderson cunningly uses Alan’s reluctance to grow up to examine the pressures that women in American society faced in the 1970s.

By 1973, the sexual revolution and the Women’s Liberation Movement were in full swing. Roe v. WadHe recently legalized abortion, taking a step toward women’s physical autonomy. But outside the household arena, the future of women in the workplace was still a looming question. More women were university educated than in any other period in the United States only 13.3 percent of those with a degree he went into the workforce. The marriage that forbade married women from working was still there in place until 1973. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which finally prevented the unjust dismissal of women due to pregnancy, entered into force only in 1978. This is the environment in which Alana would be raised.

She is unaware of the possibilities facing her: “He is rich and famous and he wanted to get me out of here!” cries at his father when a Sabbath date with Gary’s sweetheart Lance (Skyler Gisondo) breaks down. In contrast to Gary, the world of adult men is characterized by embarrassment and massaging the ego, be it Jon Peters (Bradley Cooper) and his slimy fans or William Holden (Sean Penn) and his obsession with reliving past fame. Even the promotion of mayoral candidate Joel Wachs (Benny Safdie) ends in disappointment when it turns out that he is using Alano as a cover-up to cover up his real relationship.

Bradley Cooper, Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim in ‘Licorice Pizza’

(Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures)

In addition to Alan’s desire to stay free, interrupted in time with “Gary and his 15-year-old friends,” there’s also the roaring anxiety that permeates what’s going on during the film’s period. The hippie period of free love was a fire that had long since burned out and retreated to Nixon’s age of cynicism; Gary’s loose waving with the “Peace and Love, Baby” sign encounters a stern harsh admonition. Then there’s the uneasiness around the oil crisis, something that affects even the untouchables, the Hollywood elite. No wonder Alana is worried about a future that is already so volatile. At least Gary offers optimism and security.

Take a closer look and Licorice pizza it is not at all a contemptuous story of a relationship with an imbalance of power or even romantic love. It’s about the thrill of losing and then finding yourself, the story of a girl-woman who regained herself in a period when women weren’t allowed to put themselves first. Like Alana earlier in the film, she tells Gary, “You’re not my director”; this story belongs to her.


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