Licorice Pizza

Licorice Pizza ★★★★★

96

Re-watching Inherent Vice in prep for Licorice Pizza, I was struck once again by the highs and lows of its euphoria. The absurdist joy of PTA's Pynchon odyssey frequently slipped into caverns of sorrow and paranoia, only to climb back out for a breath of fresh air. A journey through the past, floating by foggy side-streets and spooky pizza parties, the illusions of the 60s co-opted and scrambled by the FBI and dentist tax cults. The warm relief of his Chuck Jackson 'Any Day Now' needle-drop, or his sprinkles of Neil Young and Can, were calling out for an expansion. The yearning sadness of Inherent Vice, perfect in its own way, is here in a different register in Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film.

If Inherent Vice was the bad hippie dream, Licorice Pizza springs to life bright and early. It leaps out of bed and sprints right out the door. In this mosaic of Encino, packed with the fringes of Hollyweird, city politicking, waterbeds, pinball, Rise and Grind schemes, teenage precociousness, and twenty-something apathy, there's a gooey, romantic center. The one-two punch acting debut of both Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman is irresistible, and they collide and repel against each other all while a smorgasbord of side characters drift through this sunny slice of life. What's most infectious is the immediacy of PTA's narrative. How he so fluidly moves from incident to incident, balancing the progression of disparate side stories while building to a conclusion that had me floating out of the theater.

At first glance, PTA reckons with the horrors of womanhood, specifically in regards to Alana's relationship with cultural identity. He explores the inevitable - your hometown shaping your sense of self, the people you meet, and those kindred spirits, a special someone, that you'll never forget. And he wrestles with the fantasy of the premise, and what remains real and true. It may dance across the screen like a fairy tale, but the need to be truly loved? That's what it's all about. Paul Thomas Anderson rolled down the windows and turned up the music with this one. And all I had to do was bask in the vibes.

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