Licorice Pizza, the new PTA

My one weakness.

Variety has a terrific lengthy interview with Paul Thomas Anderson about his latest film and mellowing out as he gets older.

Good read. Thanks for the link!

I can’t believe I didn’t get this earlier

Seeing this tonight! A 35mm print even. EXCITED

This may not come as much of a surprise, but this is a beautiful, hilarious film. I loved it and can’t wait to see it again.

I watched this today and really liked it. Funny and very sweet.

I also experienced one of the best instances of comedic timing with a projector malfunction I could think of:

Summary

While at the Teen Fair, Gary is suddenly grabbed by a cop and arrested. In the cop car, he tries to explain there’s been some misunderstanding, but the cop interrupts, saying “You’re going away for murder. Hope you enjoy Attica!” And at that moment, the screen cuts to black, and stays black.

Eventually, they fixed the issue, but it really lent a great Monty Python and the Holy Grail vibe to it.

I saw this again last night. Still loved it. I’m surprised more folks aren’t talking about it. I guess people are waiting to watch at home what with this whole omicron nuisance. But Licorice Pizza and West Side Story deserved better box office fo sho.

The moment that stood out that I had kind of missed on first viewing was when Gary shows up to the Tail o’ the Cock (with two girls!) while Alana is there with Jack Holden. Henry the maitre’d greets Gary and, knowing the relationship drama, tries to protect his feelings or prevent conflict by offering him take out this evening. Gary is confused, then sees Alana with Jack and tells Henry, no, we’ll be staying and requests a table with “direct sightlines.” Then when Kirk shows up he says, “Gritted teeth. Assassin’s focus.” So funny.

We just watched Punch Drunk Love again too. PTA is unique! Such a peculiar, inventive comic/romantic voice. And Licorice Pizza is just filled with his showbiz friends and family.

It released right as Omicron was becoming a huge problem. That’s the thing keeping me out of the theater right now and I dearly want to see it.

I have no idea why, but I thought LP was coming out in February and was mentally planning on it. I don’t see it in any local theater, so either it’s not here yet or I’ve missed it (which sucks if so because I wanted to see it on a big screen and I’m guessing the theater would have been close to empty.)

Yeah, I was only able to see it on Christmas, and then ended up snowed in for the next week and change, otherwise I would’ve caught a second showing. I absolutely need to rewatch though.

It feels a little slight compared to most of PTA’s other works, but given that virtually every single film he’s made is a masterpiece, that’s not exactly a complaint.

I haven’t seen it yet, of course, but I am glad he’s willing to work with young actors who can’t yet deliver weighty performances like Joaquin Phoenix and Daniel Day-Lewis so require a slighter film to match them. That’s a path to future masterpieces, whether they work with Anderson or another filmmaker.

The leads in this are absolutely fantastic, and worth seeing for their performances alone.

I think it just stood out initially as less memorable for me because it’s very loose and episodic, without much in the way of stakes or central plot. And I love that because it feels messy in an organic and lifelike way. So I guess it both works in and against its favor?

That’s exactly right… it’s a loose collection of short stories largely based on child-actor/film producer Gary Goetzman’s anecdotes and life experiences. The love story holds it all together but is frequently/always in the background of these episodic sequences. Plus it’s a fairly long film that resets again for a new sequence as it approaches the two hour mark so some might feel that it’s dragging at that point. (My daughter and wife both felt that way, though they both really enjoyed the film.)

Even though it doesn’t fully deliver a cohesive story, everything else about it works brilliantly and more than makes up for it. I think PTA has story pretty ‘low in the mix’ with this film (and most of his films) but everything else is way up high. Especially cinematography and music… my soundtrack on vinyl just arrived in the mail! Seemed appropriate for this one.

I heard this quote from PTA on a recent episode of the Bill Simmons podcast, talking about the soundtrack for Licorice Pizza and what it means to use all-time classic songs like Life on Mars and the responsibility that comes with that choice… He said, ​"If anything you actually have to ask yourself, if you have the balls to use David Bowie Life on Mars or Paul McCartney Let Me Roll It, you have to earn it. They’re not cheap, and I don’t mean money-wise. You know, it’s like, don’t not do your work and call in David Bowie to help do your work for you."

I also love this quote from Phillip Baker Hall from this awesome oral history of Boogie Nights on working with Paul Thomas Anderson: "I remember doing one scene with him and I was down near the floor and Paul came down there and laid next to me. And he’s looking at me and I remember I said, “What are you doing?” He was like a foot away from me. He was looking me right in the eye. I said, “What are you doing?” He said, “I’m looking for the truth.”

Finally saw this last night. Really, really enjoyed it. Interestingly, I thought it was more Alana’s story than Alana and Gary’s — he was more an instrument in her self-discovery. Can’t believe neither of them has acted before.

Some interesting background in this Variety article, for those interested in where the story came from.

(@MrTibbs posted the link up topic, but that was before the movie released, and it’s an interesting read after seeing it.)

I’m leaning in this direction myself, but it’s a tricky story to read. Been thinking a looooot about it as I work on a 55-page (!) PowerPoint slideshow in progress prepping for a class/discussion on the film this Thursday.

My current thinking is that Act 1 belongs to Gary and Act 3 belongs to Alana.

He’s the one who experiences love at first sight which is typically the inciting event for a story like this but it happens too early here to serve that story purpose. The actual inciting event is Momma Anita saying she can’t take Gary to NY so he’ll need a chaperone. The cut to act 2 is Gary walking into the waterbed store.

So I was convinced Gary is the clear protagonist, but then there’s the ending with Alana and Matthew talking about their boyfriends and this feels like a more important epiphany (or self discovery as you said) which leads to their climactic collision and kiss.

But it’s fascinating to see how he took all those individual anecdotes from Gary Goetzman’s life and folded in the love story in the background of each one.