Licorice Pizza

Licorice Pizza ★★★★

After the fascinatingly passionate austerity of PHANTOM THREAD (17) Paul Thomas Anderson returns to his San Fernando Valley and lets it all hang out, with a murderer's row of often sidesplitting scene-stealers embracing 70s fashions and mores. (They're all great--Bradley Cooper's Jon Peters is one for the ages--but my favorites are PTA's good luck charm Harriet Harris and Christine Ebersole as "Lucy Doolittle"; Lucille Ball and William Holden, Sean Penn's funny roué "Jack Holden" in the movie, are flimsily disguised in this very loosely true story. Peters and politician Joel Wachs, played by Benny Safdie, gave their permission--my guess is Peters is too narcissistic to care about how he's portrayed.)

Holding it together, however, are newcomers Cooper Hoffman, as a self-described "showman" awkwardly stuck in a 15-year-old body, and Alana Haim as an aimless 25-year-old who falls in with him and his oddball teenage crew. Not heavy on plot the movie is about their curious friendship that flirts with something else, but not always about it either, as both try to find their own way amidst all these perplexing "grown-up" weirdos (waterbed sales are involved). They're both terrific, and further texture beyond the dead-on cinematography, production and costume design, and music is added by the successful casting of friends and family (Haim's dad has a future ahead of him playing tough guys, and Leonardo DiCaprio's dad, a waterbed salesman, is delightful as...a waterbed salesman). It's a "vibe" kind of movie that some may not get into (it takes its era at face value, no apologies for what we may think today) but I fell into it, as I did ALMOST FAMOUS twenty years ago. (Village East, in 70mm)

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