Licorice Pizza is a 2021 American coming-of-age comedy-drama film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. It stars Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman in their film debuts, alongside an ensemble cast including Sean Penn, Tom Waits, Bradley Cooper, and Benny Safdie. The movie has generally been well-received, having been nominated in the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.
In truth, there’s nothing special about Licorice Pizza whosoever. The lead characters are annoying and difficult to engage with. Gary (Hoffman) is a 15-year-old arrogant, overly confident entitled teenager who thinks he can have anything he wants mainly due to his family wealth. He spends most of the movie coming with hare-brained business schemes which never quite come off. Alana (Haim) is a 25 year old flaky, spoilt and idealistic Jewish woman, who for some inexplicable reason decides to spend time with teenagers a decade younger than her.
This premise of Licorice Pizza – revolving around a disturbing relationship (which ultimately turns romantic, and probably sexual) between an under-aged boy and an adult woman, is not in itself damaging but the manner in which director Paul Thomas Anderson presents it is. By all accounts, it makes little sense why Alana would want to hang out with Gary unless there is something seriously wrong with her. However, this is never quite depicted as such. Anderson wants the audience to feel perfectly fine with this and there is a lightness in the air that sells it as such.
Throughout the movie, none of the other characters bat an eyelid regarding the age gap between Gary and Alana – somehow we do not recall that such relationships were more acceptable in the 1970s than they are now. In that light, we find it astonishing that Licorice Pizza has been so well-received and not called out for this downright troubling premise.
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