Director:  Paul Thomas Anderson

Runtime: 133 minutes

Cast: Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Sean Penn, Tom Waits, Bradley Cooper, Benny Safdie


Synopsis: “Licorice Pizza” is the story of Alana Kane and Gary Valentine growing up, running around and falling in love in the San Fernando Valley, 1973.  Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, the film tracks the treacherous navigation of first love.


Film director, producer and screenwriter Paul Thomas Anderson [Hard Eight (1996), Boogie Nights (1997), Magnolia (1999), Punch-Drunk Love (2002), There Will Be Blood (2007), The Master (2012), Inherent Vice (2014), Phantom Thread (2017)] tracks the treacherous navigation of first love in Licorice Pizza. The film tells the story of Alana Kane and Gary Valentine as they grow up, run around and fall in love in the San Fernando Valley in 1973. The young couple are played by Alana Haim from the band Haim and Cooper Hoffman, son of Philip Seymour Hoffman, both in their first feature film roles.

Sweet, funny, warm; this seems to be Paul Thomas Anderson’s most sincere movie, which still retains enough of his trademark touches. In two amazing debut performances, Haim and Hoffman give the film a youthful, optimistic perspective, that is totally infectious.

The film features waterbeds, pinball machines, gas shortages, entrepreneurial frenzy, Barbara Streisand’s egomaniac sex crazed lover, local politics, motorcycle stunts performed by Sean Penn and encouraged by Tom Waits, a magnificent soundtrack and score by Jonny Greenwood and superb cinematography by Paul Thomas Anderson and Michael Bauman.

Licorice Pizza is among PTA’a most nostalgic films. Set in the Valley in the 1970s (like Boogie Nights and Magnolia), it is about a 15-year-old child actor, Gary, with a major crush on an older woman, Alana.

Paul Thomas Anderson has told Variety that there was a moment in real life that inspired him to write Licorice Pizza, which he describes as “an awkward teen encounter,” not unlike the moments that Gary and Alana have in the film.

Anderson took a walk one day in his neighbourhood, where the film takes place, the San Fernando Valley, and walked past Portola Middle School where he witnessed a moment that stuck in his head, sparking the idea for the film.

“It was picture day,” he said, “and I saw this very energetic teenager flirting with the girl who was taking pictures. It was an instantly good premise.”

The characters work and scheme together, have age-appropriate fringe relationships, learn, grow, clearly love one another, run to and from each other, do not have sex, just two young people drawn to each other with a lot of obstacles in their way.

Licorice Pizza is a heart-warming story about friendship and love. When 15-year-old Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) meets 25-year-old Alana Kane (Alana Haim), their life in California’s San Fernando Valley in 1973 takes interesting turns. The result is an uplifting, entertaining jewel of a film.

In cinemas

Images courtesy of: MGM Studios/Universal Pictures