A Taste of Licorice Pizza

A Taste of Licorice Pizza

Felicity Nolan , Writer

Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film Licorice Pizza is a dazzling look into the 1970s. Undoubtedly a Bildungsroman, the film takes a satirical approach to the cliche. Classic romantic buildup culminating in humorously anti-climactic finishes is what sets the film apart as a simultaneously romanticized and realistic portrayal of wild youth. With the occasionally awkward dialogue, thrilling plot, and glamorous cinematography, Licorice Pizza is a spectacular portrayal of coming of age. 

The first striking thing about this film is the fundamental gap between its two central characters. Gary Valentine, a 15 year old high school student with ambition and confidence, is immediately enchanted by the attractive and feisty “25” year old Alana Kane. Though portraying herself as reluctant and insouciant, she is immediately enticed by Gary’s obvious obsession over her. 

The age gap present in their relationship is simply the first of several aspects of the film that seems largely disinterested about the notion of time. Gary, though 15, is simultaneously an ambitious businessman and child actor, who easily loses track of time when he’s on dates with Alana, or whoever else he can get with. Alana similarly exhibits a preoccupation with the immediate events of her life, ignoring structure or commitment. The film loosely follows their cooperation as business partners, con-men, romantic interests, competitors, and most importantly best friends. They are at a constant struggle through time throughout the film where they flip-flop between hopeless devotion to each other and competitively proving their independence from each other. 

What is most moving about the film is the relatable nature of Alana’s character. With her apparent confidence and poor self image, she is a striking anomaly. She represents the common struggle between boldly showing oneself to the world and accepting oneself internally. She lives a wandering lifestyle, constantly changing her mind in careers and relationships and running to wherever she feels she is desired. Certainly an attention seeker, her actions do not reflect that she knows her worth, for she allows herself to fall into the hands of any man that shows interest in her. Despite this, she is ambitious and brave, and she ultimately knows where her heart lies, unsettlingly with a 15 year old boy. 

Some may find this film disturbing, as it seems to celebrate and romanticize a potentially pedophiliac relationship. However, it is certainly a dazzling show of youth and dreams, and everyone should have a look at it.