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‘Licorice Pizza’: Robin’s movie review

A movie poster for the film “Licorice Pizza.” A woman has her hands on her hips and is looking away from the camera. Behind her, a man is leaning back onto a vintage car while looking toward her.

For this week’s Movie Minutes, KUNR entertainment reviewer Robin Holabird looks at a new film that takes us back to the 1970s.

Having grown up in the San Fernando Valley, acclaimed director Paul Thomas Anderson takes a lighthearted look at his regional roots in the movie Licorice Pizza. Neither a personal memory a la Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, nor a satire to vapidness like the “Valley Girl” song, Licorice Pizza embraces a distinct culture found in the perimeter of Hollywood where everyday people sometimes cross paths with faces whose fame both permits and promotes outlandish behavior.

Using real-life tales told by a youthful entrepreneur with chutzpah created by years as a child actor, Anderson reimagines a mix of common teenage dreams plus the extremes allowed in a community that exploits and creates some of those fantasies. As screenwriter, Anderson applies his sense of specificity about the place where he grew up and still lives today. Anderson’s title comes from a popular record store chain in Los Angeles County, and he includes Tail O’ the Cock, a once-popular restaurant in Sherman Oaks. Mixing in period cars and clothing, Anderson revives the Valley as it seemed as the 1960s moved into the ‘70s, the bright optimism of a Mary Poppins musical era finding turmoil in politics and economic calamities, like gas shortages.

Main character Gary finds himself in a similar transition period, no longer cute enough for television and movies and not quite ready for adult roles. His environment lets him go off in crazy directions, like interacting with William Holden and Jon Peters, portrayed in brief and funny outings by Sean Penn and Bradley Cooper. Lead roles go to newcomers Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim as buddies on their way to discovering what really matters in life: love.

Though its ultimate face is that of a rom-com, Licorice Pizza gets there without using the genre’s clichés and comes off as an enjoyable little romp into an incongruous world.

Robin Holabird is KUNR’s entertainment reviewer, author and former film commissioner for the Nevada Film Office. You can hear all of her reviews in this online archive.

Robin Holabird reviews movies for KUNR, and her reviews have aired for more than 30 years. During that time, she has had a high profile in the Nevada film community.
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