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Licorice Pizza

Paul Thomas Anderson • 2021

A movie that to its benefit and detriment tries to traffic solely in good vibes.

Something like a chimera of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood ↗ (not just in terms of aw-jeez nostalgia, deployed sometimes to awful effect with John Michael Higgins' bizarre Japanese accent but in terms of playing fast and loose with historical realism) and Everybody Wants Some!!! ↗ in terms of, well, the casual-fit acting and quasi-episodic storytelling that makes you want to curl up in almost every scene.

PTA is a great filmmaker, and one possible way to look at this movie is a sort of reckoning with the past, a visceral experience of going "oh wow, how blissed out and fun" and "oh, jeez, that was pretty bad" within the confines of a single scene. That's probably the charitable lens — you don't really get the sense that that you're supposed to take too much stock in the latter moments of whiplash, though. Nor are you to take too much stock in the age difference between the characters, I suppose — again, the charitable lens is to look at the final few scenes of the film in the same way we look at the closing shot of The Graduate ↗, as a moment of wry concern and regret and not as triumph. (I certainly don't begrudge anyone who has trouble finding that charitable lens.)

The two leads were really terrific, though, and if you had told me that Philip Seymour Hoffman's kid and the bassist from Haim would have given star turn portrayals I would have seriously questioned your judgment. They were lovely! They had just the right level of charm and humanity without feeling, you know, like an Amy Sherman-Palladino character.

What I think rung most true to me in this film is the subtle tug-of-war in their central relationship. Revelation followed by reconciliation followed by miscue followed by — you get it. It was a garden path, not a cosmic arc. It felt like an exciting relationship, whether one at 18 or at 28.

8/8/2022
✭✭✭
Romcom
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© 2022 Justin Duke • I hope you're wearing your favorite sweater.