Plot: What’s it about?
I first discovered the work of Paul Thomas Anderson in a very roundabout way. Having always been a fan of film, my editing class went on a field trip to the movie theater. We decided on Hard Eight, starring Phillip Baker Hall, Gwyneth Paltrow and John C. Reilly. This came out in 1996 and Paltrow and Reilly weren’t the names they are now. Something about that film spoke to me. I liked the style. The visual flare. And the movie was entertaining as well. The next year brought the world Boogie Nights. A film that put Mark Wahlberg on the map (and Leonardo DiCaprio calls this “the worst choice of my career” not taking the part as Dirk Diggler). The next few years brought us Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love (showing the world that Adam Sandler could actually act)! The point of all this is that after a quarter of a century making films, P.T. Anderson is a director that I’ll naturally gravitate towards. With Licorice Pizza, it’s a different kind of movie and if not having a linear plot is up your alley, you’ll be in heaven.
We meet Gary (Cooper Hoffman), a 15-year-old high school student who meets and is smitten with 25-year-old Alana Kane (Alana Haim). She’s charmed by him, but a bit put off by him as well. Nevertheless the two meet for dinner. The two form an unusual relationship and we’re party to some of the series of adventures that the duo have along the way. They open a pinball arcade, meet up with a drunken acting legend (Sean Penn) and they start a waterbed business. This leads to perhaps the best act of the film when the duo meet up wit Jon Peters (Bradley Cooper) who proceeds to berate and threaten them (off topic, Peters is the producer of my favorite film of all-time: Caddyshack).
As noted above, there’s not a definitive/linear plot line to follow along. It’s more along the lines of “the adventures of Alana and Gary.” And that’s fine. I like films that are a bit counter-culture. It works here. Boogie Nights was, in many respects, the same way. There was a bit of controversy with the characters of Alana and Gary, however, she being in her 20’s and he in his mid-teens. There were a couple of scenes that raised an eyebrow, but I saw nothing too bad. Then again, there are always a group of people looking for something to make out of anything. I’d have to assume, by now, that you either love the works of P.T. Anderson or you don’t. There’s not a lot of in between with his particular style. And there’s not a lot wrong with Licorice Pizza. It delivers.
Video: How’s it look?
Those familiar with P.T. Anderson’s wonderful Boogie Nights might have an idea as what to expect visually. Both took place in the 70’s in Los Angeles (or thereabouts) and both seem to employ the same visual flare that Anderson is known for. Anderson loves to shoot wide, as well, which I like. This stretches the screen and makes it that much enjoyable when we see a drunken Sean Penn riding about. Colors are a bit on the muted side, but it works with the source material. Detail is as expected, sharp as a tack and the resulting image struck me as I’d expected – a good-looking effort from a day-and-date movie on Blu-ray. Nothing to complain about here.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The audio is, too, as expected. Included is a DTS HD Master Audio mix that utilizes all the channels at some point in the film, most notably during the “motorcycle stunt.” Vocals are rich and crisp. Surrounds aren’t used too heavily, but the film (as do most of Anderson’s) does rely on a pretty active soundtrack that sets the tone for the film. Directional effects are present, but not used too often. In a nutshell, if you’ve seen any of Anderson’s other films – this is on par with those. Again, the purpose served and should satisfy.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Camera Tests – Pre-production camera tests and unused takes.
- Deleted Scene – “The Handman”, though it doesn’t offer a lot to the film.
- Fat Bernie’s Commercial – An in-universe commercial for Fat Bernie’s as shot by Gary Valentine.
- Behind the Scenes – A glimpse behind the scenes of Licorice Pizza through a collection on-set photos and videos.
The Bottom Line
Some of Anderson’s recent works, namely Inherent Vice and The Master, weren’t quite up to par with some of his earlier works like There Will Be Blood, Magnolia and Boogie Nights. But with Licorice Pizza, it’d appear that he’s one again found his groove. Top notch video and audio along with a compelling (yet non-linear) storyline make for a great title to add to your collection.