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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Licorice Pizza (M) - 134 minutes

A delightful, quirky and comedic coming of age tale, Licorice Pizza has originality stamped all over it.

We’re in the San Fernando Valley in 1973.

15-year-old smooth talking, super confident Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) eyes off and chats up an older school photographer, Alana Kane (Alana Haim).

She can’t believe his gumption and bravado when he tells her he’s an actor and businessman, whose mother works for him.

Gary is nothing if not an opportunist and early on he identifies Alana as the future Mrs Valentine.

She wants to maintain her distance, but is intrigued by him.

Before long, she is accompanying Gary on a flight to New York, where he is about to appear alongside the adult star Lucy Doolittle (Christine Ebersole) on a television program.

A fellow child actor shows an interest in Alana during the flight over and subsequently. Gary is not impressed.

Thereafter, the relationship between Gary and Alana continues to ebb and flow.

He seizes the opportunity to capitalise upon a couple of new trends … revealing his business acumen. On occasions, Alana works with him.

At the same time, he shows an interest in another girl, much to Alana’s chagrin.

She dabbles with acting and decides to volunteer to work with a seemingly honourable councilman looking to be elected to office.

Licorice Pizza is all about first love and jealousy is a significant part of that.

With a magnificent commitment to period detail (spoiler alert: look out for the Batmobile), the script by writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread) is a cracker.

In short, surprise is the name of the game.

The movie is enormous fun, characterised by a number of “look at me” performances.

A chip off the old block, Cooper Hoffman (the son of the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman) makes an auspicious acting debut.

He oozes self-awareness and self-belief.

Alana Haim too shows she is no wallflower in a poised and confident feature film debut, which showcases her range.

Sean Penn is the consummate performer as lauded actor Jack Holden, who enjoys the adulation he receives and discovers Alana in an audition.

Bradley Cooper turns on the histrionics as film producer and Barbra Streisand’s partner John Peters.

One of the most memorable scenes in a film that has a surfeit of them is when Alana tries to win over an agent.

Harriet Sansom Harris is cast in that role and grabs it with both hands. She is a standout with her utterances.

Licorice Pizza is cheeky, cheery and thoroughly entertaining – a joyous and engaging romp, which is sure to strike a reverential chord with many.

Rated M, it scores an 8½ out of 10.


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