Written and Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza is definitely a diversion from some of the director’s most recent films such as Phantom Thread, Inherent Vice, The Master, and There will be Blood.  It certainly does not have the star studded casts that those films had nor does it include the darker subject matter.  Licorice Pizza is much more of a lighthearted drama with comedic elements mixed in, the cast consists of complete unknowns making their feature film debuts. The movie stars Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman, and has a brief and eccentric performance by Bradley Cooper, Benny Safdie is also featured in a relatively obscure subplot.  

I will pass on describing the first act of the plot to you as Licorice Pizza mostly meanders around and does not follow a traditional story structure.  This is a hang out movie pure and simple, there are plenty of funny jokes and entertaining instances of characters fooling around which is perfectly in line with what Anderson was going for I guess. The obvious comparison to this film is American Graffiti which had a much more clear and concise story and more relatable characters but I digress, at least PTA has more of a knack for comedy than George Lucas. The dialogue in the film is its strongpoint as there are numerous scenes which are sure to stick in audience members’ heads.  This is not entirely unnormal for a PTA film as he did give us that “I drink your milkshake ” scene in There will be Blood.  Aside from the fun and witty dialogue another area in which this film shines is in its production design, the worldbuilding does a great deal for the film as we are fully emersed and mesmerized by the nostalgic look that is portrayed of the 1970’s.  It is a daunting task to make a film look and feel like it had taken place in the 1970’s when in reality we are in 2022.  Whether it be Fat Bernie’s pinball arcade, the Soggy Bottom water bed booth, the Tail of the Cock restaurant or the storefront of cupid’s hot dogs nostalgia is what PTA is going for in this movie.  Some of the locations used in the film were taken over by the production staff and fully remodeled and re-designed to fit the time period.  The fact that this film did not get nominated for best production design is borderline criminal, although I will concede that category did have stiff competition this year.  

Really the only thing wrong with this movie is its DGAF attitude towards the plot.  Character’s motivations aren’t entirely clear and there is no clear protagonist in the story.  The pacing is not great, the first and third acts maintain our interest but the 2nd act is entirely too long and at times does not hold the audience’s attention.  Although trying to confine this film to a traditional 3 act structure is probably foolish on my part, my point is this film drags way too long in some sequences.  While plenty of people are sure to hail this film as a masterpiece I for one am not convinced.  Although it is a very well crafted film, a masterpiece must need a compelling story in which the audience is engaged for the entirety of the film, clever dialogue is not enough.