Licorice Pizza

Licorice Pizza ★★★½

A romance between a 15-year-old and a 25-year-old is ironically not what broke the camel's back here. Paul Thomas Anderson's newest throwback drama Licorice Pizza introduces to the world the glorious acting talents of both Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman, while at the same time presenting a simplistic storyline that's for sure not a standout among even PTA's own filmography.

Licorice Pizza is first and foremost an effectively deadpan comedy, at least for the first half. A naive 15-year-old high schooler falls in love with a sassy older woman and eventually starts a business with her. Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman are definitely the biggest rewards of watching Licorice Pizza, as they both demonstrate enormous maturity and astonishing believability in their acting debuts, each with personality arcs that could leave an impression, and impressive comedic timing to pull off all the witty writings that eventually land truly well.

Like his previous masterpiece Inherent Vice, Anderson transports the audience once again back to the equal parts sunny and gloomy 70s with style, designs and clothing, and it's truly a nostalgic trip even if the actual 70s has never been part of your existence.

Having said that, once Sean Penn appears with his smug, never-ending cameo, that's when you get the cue that some shit is about to hit the fan. Right after that Licorice Pizza seems to take on some meandering, uninspiring developments that in hindsight only serve to throw off the tempo. Bradley Cooper's and Benny Safdie's cameos are some of the saving graces, thankfully, bringing the axis back to its supposed position, only for it to swivel once again towards a contrived, pointless closer that feels far too generic for a PTA movie.

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