Licorice Pizza

Licorice Pizza ★★★★½

Licorice Pizza distinguishes itself from other inside baseball Hollywood pictures by being delightfully fringe, and it distinguishes itself from other period films by being laser-like in its specificity. The 70s is not just a mood, it's an exact time and place, and yet the events of that time and place are not the focus. They only make for a full-bodied background that Anderson's free-wheeling romance can splash up against, sometimes with turmoil and sometimes with elation. Like Phantom Thread and Punch-Drunk Love, Licorice Pizza is a highly organic script. You can seldom imagine what will come next because it isn't beholden to any traditional format. It just rolls.

Haim and Hoffman are perfect, the latter evoking the energy of his late father so effectively that his performance has its own emotional charge. All of the star power is divvied out into delightfully odd cameos. Sean Penn talking about Korea like a warrior poet for the sake of sexual predation, Tom Waits ringleading a circus of Old Hollywood bar patrons, Harriet Sansom Harris as a theatrical agent chomping down cigarettes and thirsting for the next hot thing. Best of all is Bradley Cooper as coked-out maniac Jon Peters. This kind of psychotic live-wire shit is what he's best at and he devours the role.

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