Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the directors that inspired me to move to Los Angeles. In 1996, I worked at a Blockbuster Video in Glendale, AZ. One night, I rented HARD EIGHT and was mesmerized by how he’s able to frame actors and bring raw intensity to the scenes. Then came BOOGIE NIGHTS. The music and style inspired one of the first screenplays I wrote (and no, you cannot read it). Cut to 1999. At this point, I had HARD EIGHT, BOOGIE NIGHTS, and MAGNOLIA posters hung on my bedroom walls. I also saw MAGNOLIA in the theatre not once or twice but five times. To this day, it’s still in my top ten films of all time.
Yet, something happened to Paul Thomas Anderson. As he continued his career making his style of movies, the likability of his characters diminished. Gone were the lovable characters like Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) and Officer Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly). They were replaced with despicable leads that made it tough to root for them. As Anderson continued to have hits among the critics (THE MASTER and PHANTOM THREAD), I fell out of love and officially broke up with him.
In my favorite Paul Thomas Anderson films list below, it’s clear that for me, the more likable his lead characters are, the more I love his movies.
- BOOGIE NIGHTS
- HARD EIGHT
- PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE
- LICORICE PIZZA
- THERE WILL BE BLOOD
- THE MASTER
- PHANTOM THREAD
- INHERENT VICE
So here we are, twenty-five years since I’ve seen my first Paul Thomas Anderson movie, and I’ve once again fallen back in love with his work.
LICORICE PIZZA is Paul Thomas Anderson’s most approachable film in years. It’s a rom-com that pays homage to Hollywood. But, if that wasn’t enough, it’s also suspenseful, sexy, and most importantly, small. I don’t mean small in a degrading way, but more in the sense that this is an intimate character study of two leads that’s more interested in the characters’ adventures than actually moving the plot forward. Think of it as a rom-com version of ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, but instead of having Leo Dicaprio and Brad Pitt, audiences get Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim. In HOLLYWOOD, audiences wanted to spend more time with both lead characters, and the same is true for LICORICE PIZZA.
I could get into the romance, but for someone like myself who doesn’t watch trailers, that would spoil the fun of discovering Hoffman and Haim. So instead, I will say that the two lead actors bounce off each other like bumpers in a perfect pinball game.
It’s tough to sell someone on an overlong character study with two unknown leads. Yet, if I could, I would say – “See LICORICE PIZZA for the action sequence with a moving truck and stay to be moved by an indie slice of heaven.”
LICORICE PIZZA is available in theatres.
Interested in a second take? Check out Eli’s review from earlier this month.