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Licorice Pizza

Don't miss this spirited Hollywood, coming-of-age romance by one of the great filmmakers of our time.

Licorice Pizza

Licorice Pizza is the name of a defunct record store chain in ‘70’s Southern California as well as the name of Paul Thomas Anderson’s newest kinetic, entertaining, nostalgia-ridden teen romance. Like the chain, this ‘70’s   retro is a valentine to a bygone era of burgers and pot, pimples and stupidity, the province of restless youths looking for life in all the wrong places.

Anderson’s star child is Alana (Alana Haim in her film debut), as attractive a heroine as could ever occupy not the prettiest face but the most charming. She’s 25, and he is a fifteen-year-old Gary (Cooper Hoffman), a hustler in the Anderson universe like his oilman (There Will be Blood, played by Daniel Day- Lewis) and his cult leader (Master), played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, now transformed by his son, Cooper, into a charming Gary Valentine winning the heart of 10-years-older Alana.

As the two leads navigate the waterbed hustle and the still-emerging film industry, the dark of which is signified by their hanging out in the porn-capitol valley spot, Tarzana. Anderson has fun spoofing memorable ‘70’s films like Shampoo by having Bradley Cooper mimic playboy stylist Jon Peters, whose romance of Barbra Streisand could be made into a complete satire itself. Sean Penn as motor-cycling Jack Holden (a stand-in for William Holden) almost steals the pic from Cooper. In both cases, Anderson nicely contrasts the seasoned stars with the two lead neophytes. All are better for Anderson’s genial casting.

Mostly, this charming retrospective captures a visually-alluring early-‘70’s Hollywood and the eternal search of youth looking for love wherever it shows up. Licorice Pizza is colorful and entertaining, capturing, as Anderson’s buddy Tarantino did in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the funky, dope-addled, creative Southern California of the ‘70’s.

It should be on everyone’s top ten of the year lists, and it is.

In theaters, where the big screen will give it its due.

Licorice Pizza

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood)

Screenplay: Anderson

Cast: Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman

Run Time: 2h 13m

Rating: R

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts for NPR’s WCBE.90.5 FM It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at

John DeSando holds a BA from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. in English from The University of Arizona. He served several universities as a professor, dean, and academic vice president. He has been producing and broadcasting as a film critic on It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics for more than two decades. DeSando received the Los Angeles Press Club's first-place honors for national entertainment journalism.