Licorice Pizza

Licorice Pizza ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Saying goodbye to my theatrical relationship with my favorite movie to be released during my lifetime, it’s been fun making this the film I’ve seen most in the theater (6 times)!

I completely subscribe to the theory that this is told in a joint half-remembered fashion, like this could be from the perspective of either of these two lead characters telling us in modern day what happened, mixing up the timeline of events like crazy. I’ve been seeing more reviews about people complaining about the plot, where they’ll say that the sequence of events could have happened in any order and it wouldn’t effect the end result, and that’s pretty much true, and I think that was 100% the intention. 

If you look at the actual events, both the real life events and the tiny clues the characters give you to a past and future, the timeline that we see we see makes no sense at all. Joel Wachs’ campaign ran from 1972 into the actual election of spring 1973, oil crisis was from October ‘73 into March ‘74, pinball was legalized in summer of ‘74, and it feels like these characters could be any age at any time. My guess for an “accurate” timeline would be something like this:

They meet in the fall of 1972 (picture day), Gary is 15, and Alana is probably like… 22? I don’t believe personally that she’s supposed to be 25 at the start, her hesitation and flub later (I’m 28- I’m 25) are a dead giveaway. Then sometime in early ‘73 is the Under One Roof thing (because of the Passover dinner we see she was going to have with Lance). Around this time, after her interest in Gary rises again with their silent phone call, she has a wake up call about him being a kid (the same emotion as the scene where she watches him fool around with the gas pump), and joins Wachs’ campaign. He loses, she moves on. Jobless, she joins Gary in his water bed industry, taking place over the summer of 1973 (teenage fair would’ve been in April, we don’t see Gary in school selling water beds so I think it’s safe to say this was a summer endeavor. I’d also say Gary’s birthday is sometime in May). Late summer is where she tries acting, Sean Penn shenanigans ensue. By the fall, the oil crisis happens, all the Jon Peters stuff happens, Gary just stays in school/looks after his brother while Alana has a low point of being unemployed and at home with her parents, until he opens a pinball palace without her in May/June of ‘74. She goes to him after her sister tells her to, and the rest is history. 

None of the shit I just said matters… at all. The point of the movie is to be a haphazard retelling of the feelings these people had during the time, it’s a selectively recounted story, to the point where no one really remembers who was how old at what time, and if they crossed any lines, and if it mattered. Watching it through this lens makes it feel special, like thinking about how logistically the pinball palace opening and Joel Wachs campaign couldn’t have happened at the same time, so she wouldn’t have ran from her dinner with him to Gary, it makes this feel like they know all the big checkpoints but it’s been 50 years and they’re blending it all together, to make a tight-knit 2 hour storytelling session about the weirdest friendship during a niche time.

There’s certainly a ton of warmth to this, but I’ll never understand how anyone can proclaim this as a total “love letter” or piece of “pure nostalgia”, it shows so much darkness in the corner of every scene, sometimes in the forefront. The narrative PTA strings together takes events that didn’t happen back to back and brings a through line (the way that the truck scene leads into the Wachs campaign being the primary example), but in the end, what matters is that these people need each other. Even if we go by my logic, making him 17 and slightly less disgusting (?) (still is lol) by the end, it’s still a weird relationship to have, and that’s completely the point. They’re the kind of people that would run off into the night, and then wake up the next morning and fluctuate again over time like we see them do so frequently in the narrative of Licorice Pizza (which is a perfect title by the way). Based on the script and the way PTA talks about it, I’m not sure if any of this reading is even there, but he leaves a lot open, so I don’t think it’s a wrong way to look at it. 

In a completely quotable script, “I’m not gonna forget you. Just like how you’re not gonna forget me” is ultimately the line that really sums this up best. The shot of their silhouettes used so notably in the trailer is so much better in context, having the credits and “Tommorow May Not Be Your Day” play all over it, and bask in the moment, the possibility, and the reality of friendship and young romance. It’s the kind of thing that, even after the cheery, roll call style credits, provokes a strong emotional reaction from me. 

I wouldn’t have this movie any other way, or at any other time in my life.

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