Licorice Pizza is now showing in selected theatres nationwide.
Licorice Pizza couldn’t feel more different to Anderson’s previous movie, The Phantom Thread. Yet, both share Anderson’s trademark style of transporting us into a period drama that is less about the plot and more about the atmosphere, interpersonal relationships and characters. Anderson has always offered us meaningful journeys void of any rush for completion; he allows the lives of his characters to unfurl like a flower in spring with moments of ferocious energy, intimacy and beauty. As a result, we are never quite sure what’s coming next as he weaves, dips, and dives around the vivid full-bodied characters he creates.
Licorice Pizza introduces us to the teenage Gary, a precocious young businessman and entrepreneur who floats through the San Fernando Valley, bathing in its opportunities. Meanwhile, the older Alana sits in the void between her teenage life and adulthood, desperately seeking a new path while questioning her sense of belonging. Both characters embody a different coming-of-age journey, one delayed and another speeding toward the future with no functioning brakes. What makes Licorice Pizza fascinating is Anderson’s ability to dovetail these journeys with a snapshot of extensive social change. Here the freewheeling and creative drive of the 70s often made the 60s look tame. This energy and beauty are reflected in every frame of Anderson’s film as he captures a moment when young people seized control of the social and political reigns.
Many modern commentators have raised the age gap in Gary and Alana’s relationship as a potential problem for Licorice Pizza, and given our current obsession with age, this is not surprising, but it is also misplaced. While our modern world may view the teenager as a mere extension of the child due to our continuously expanding notion of childhood, the 70s viewed teenagers of Gary’s age as politically and socially active young adults. Therefore, to criticise the film on this level is to misunderstand the decade and the teenage experience born from a period of extensive social change.
In Licorice Pizza, Gary and Alana seek security in different places; Gary needs an older woman who understands his drive for success and sees beyond his age. While Alana needs the energy and enthusiasm of youth as she defies the social expectations to settle down. Gary and Alana complement each other and offer the security and belonging they both need to progress and achieve. Their love is uneasy, non-physical yet passionate, as it bubbles under the surface, with both unable to vocalise why they need each other so much. Licorice Pizza is far more than an exquisite coming-of-age tale; it’s a series of fun, poignant and painful memories played out on screen for all to see. The result is a sun-drenched trip back to a decade when anything seemed possible, and rules were made to be broken. Licorice Pizza isn’t just a sublime coming-of-age love story; it’s a misty-eyed reflection of something we seem to have lost, a sense of teenage freedom, hope and adventure.
FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH
LICORICE PIZZA | 2hr 13mins | 2021
Licorice Pizza isn’t just a sublime coming-of-age love story; it’s a misty-eyed reflection of something we seem to have lost, a sense of teenage freedom, hope and adventure.