Licorice Pizza boasts fantastic visual design and a remarkable soundtrack, but the central love story sends a dangerous message to viewers.
Paul Thomas Anderson wrote and directed Licorice Pizza, a coming-of-age dramedy about a 15 year old boy who enters into a romantic relationship with a 25 year old woman. The film is set in 1970s California, featuring a dreamy soundtrack of artists like David Bowie, Joe Walsh and Paul McCartney.
LICORIZE PIZZA REVIEW: TRIGGER WARNING
Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman play the leads in Licorice Pizza, named Alana Kane and Gary Valentine respectively. Kane meanders through life, moving from one shoddy job to another. She still lives in her parents house, and she apparently has nothing better to do with her time than pursue underage boys. She is annoying, unlikable, and – despite actor Alana Haim’s best efforts – completely unredeemable.
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Alana gets topless for Gary Valentine (a minor) in one scene. In another, Gary nearly begins to sexually violate Alana while she sleeps before thinking better of it. Her friends and family have no objection to her romantic relationship with this child, and the film doesn’t either. In fact, it actively promotes it. This disgusting film features the cliché rom-com ending where the lovers (again, a 15 year old and a 25 year old) run into each other’s arms. They pronounce their love, and the credits roll.
Despite all of this, the incredibly problematic Licorice Pizza was almost universally acclaimed. The indie picture was nominated for Best Picture by at least five separate film award organizations. Almost none of the reviews mention how weird, creepy, and potentially dangerous this love story is. Licorice Pizza glorifies romantic relationships between minors and adults – relationships that are illegal, disturbing and morally reprehensible.
LICORICE PIZZA PROMOTES ROMANCE BETWEEN ADULTS AND UNDERAGE CHILDREN
Licorice Pizza runs for over two hours, and as each minute crawled by, I prayed fervently that this was not what it seemed to be. Surely, I thought, this would end in the relationship between Alana and Gary falling apart. The moral of the story should have been that minor-adult relationships are unhealthy, unacceptable, and ultimately damaging.
Alternatively, Paul Thomas Anderson could have made the main characters a decade older respectively. If Gary Valentine was 25, he could still be the smooth-talking, dollar-chasing actor and entrepreneur we see in Licorice Pizza. If Alana were 35 as well, it would only change how acceptable her love for Gary was; nothing more, nothing less. There is no reason that Licorice Pizza needed to feature a podophilic romance as the driving plotline, but unfortunately, that’s the reality of the situation.
LICORICE PIZZA: GRACEFUL CAMERAWORK CANNOT SAVE THIS HORRIBLE FILM
Licorice Pizza does feature some of the best cinematography to be found on the silver screen today. There is no denying that, from a technical standpoint, the creative team behind this project is extremely talented. They captured the magical air of youth and the seventies, a grand achievement, but they ruined it by coupling it with a horrible romance that we cannot possibly support. As an added bonus, John Michael Higgins plays a racist businessman who acts as more of an excuse to make racist jokes than a commentary on the racism of 1970s America.
Supporting actors like Sean Penn and Bradley Cooper offered a brief reprieve from the A-story of Licorice Pizza, but their comedic appearances were too brief and bizarre to make much of a difference. Why any of these actors read this script and agreed to be in this project is beyond me, but at least they did their best with the material they had.
I cannot recommend Licorice Pizza, and to be frank, I left the theater shocked and deeply upset by what I had seen.
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