Starring: Cooper Hoffman, Alana Haim, Sean Penn
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Running Time: 133 mins
Licorice Pizza is an American film about a 15 year-old boy and a 25 year-old woman who develop an unlikely bond, growing up together as they attempt to steer their lives in the direction they think is best.
I absolutely adored this movie. Bathed in wonderful nostalgia for younger days, Licorice Pizza is a soaring crowd-pleaser filled with heart and humour from beginning to end. As touching a coming-of-age tale as it is, the film is an immensely entertaining watch, blending its impressively complex romantic drama with gleefully silly antics, and a pair of lead performances which you won’t be able to resist falling in love with.
Now, you’ll have seen countless coming-of-age romance movies, so why does Licorice Pizza stand out from the pack? Well, while Paul Thomas Anderson’s film is a brilliant blend of nostalgia and frantic, hormonal teenage angst it’s also not quite as simple as your average coming-of-age love story, as it tells two separate tales that weave into one.
Following the lives of a 15 year-old boy (Cooper Hoffman) and a 25 year-old woman (Alana Haim) who grow close over the course of a sun-baked California summer, Licorice Pizza is just as much about their unlikely bond and near-romance as it is about their individual efforts to grow up, and to find a way to live in the world that truly suits them.
So, while there’s undoubtedly a degree of wistful nostalgia in the relationship that isn’t anywhere near as strange as it sounds, the real strength of Licorice Pizza is the way in which it tells both Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim’s own coming-of-age tales simultaneously, but without the film ever becoming overly convoluted.
Their ‘love’ story isn’t ever as clear-cut as you might expect. The screenplay dances around the words ‘boyfriend’ and ‘girlfriend’ like a hesitant teenager, and the biggest moments in the characters’ relationship aren’t generally romantic ones, but times when they’re engaging in a project together, or looking ahead to the rest of their lives through their various hare-brained schemes.
Hoffman and Haim have all the chemistry of a complex young couple who are both absolutely smitten with one another yet never able to make things work to perfection, and as we see the pair swing closer to and further away from each other again and again over the course of the story, we really begin to understand who they are, and why their story isn’t quite as simple as you’re expecting.
It’s a heartfelt, honest story that doesn’t shy away from gripping drama, but also is never afraid of some wonderfully rose-tinted glasses to hark back to the innocent messiness of growing up. But on top of that, Licorice Pizza isn’t half-hilarious either.
There are so many great laughs throughout this film, in a couple of cases helped immensely by side-splitting celebrity cameos, along with snappy dialogue that brings delightful energy to Hoffman and Haim’s relationship. This is a film when director Paul Thomas Anderson really lets his hair down, and uses all of his immense filmmaking talents to deliver a fun, touching and captivating tale, and one that you’ll absolutely adore from beginning to end. So, that’s why I’m giving Licorice Pizza an 8.0 overall.