I have a close friend who lived in Los Angeles during the ’60s and ’70s. I thrive from hearing his descriptions of that place, the lifestyle, and the overall experience of those times. He loves to share documentaries with me about Art Crumb, Laurel Canyon, and the music of his beloved era. A few years back, when I went to see Once Upon A Time In Hollywood with my mother at the theater, I was overly anxious to share this film with my friend. I was not only sold by this wonderful film but I also felt like I owed it to him. He didn’t care for the movie at all. I didn’t go back to the drawing board, I just accepted it. I moved on and kept watching movies. In fact, I had all but forgotten this glowing recommendation of a brilliant over-the-top Hollywood story full of A-list actors directed by the legendary Quentin Tarantino. I had forgotten about this until today when I experienced the feeling as I reflected on Licorice Pizza and the same thought occurred to me. I’ve got to share this with my friend.
Licorice Pizza, a film titled after a California chain of record stores, grabbed my attention with a preview featuring the song, “Life on Mars” by David Bowie. To make things even more exciting, Alana Haim plays one of the lead characters in the film. Despite being her first feature film, Alana is a big name in my book for her work with the band Haim. The other lead in this romantic comedy is Cooper Hoffman, the son of Philip Seymour Hoffman. This is Cooper’s debut feature film as well. The cast of this film is absolutely outstanding as every character in this film is beautifully animated and portrayed with the utmost intentionality.
Set in the San Fernando Valley in 1973, Licorice Pizza is a romantic comedy that tells the story of 15-year old actor Gary Valentine and his obsession with the 25-year-old child photographer’s assistant, Alana. Gary has a kind of annoying persistence that has the perfect balance between charm and irritation to actually be effective. Alana isn’t about to be Gary’s girlfriend but somehow finds herself drawn into a friendship which opens up a whole new world for her as he is a mover and shaker. When Gary’s mother is unable to accompany him to New York for his auditions he convinces Alana to be his chaperone.
This movie is full of mischief to the point that at moments it reminded me of a twisted version of some of those bookfair comical mystery novels written for young adults. The thing that impressed me with Licorice Pizza was the way it made me leave the theater with lots of questions concerning the decisions that the characters made. Sometimes when a romantic comedy carries this sort of heavy message, the film ends up being a real bummer. This is not the case with Licorice Pizza. I walked away from it with a feeling of upliftment and wonder.
All due respect to Paul Thomas Anderson, I came to this film for HAIM and I left it feeling like I just listened to a new HAIM album. The cast really made this picture for me. I loved the fact that so many of the characters were based on real public figures of that time. The fact that the film took place in 1973 was powerful as well as it illustrates a turning point for our world. Paul Thomas Andeson can only be rivaled by Wes Anderson in directing the best romantic comedy of 2022. I just hope my friend Don likes it.
About Nathan Conrad:
He’s best known as the Nashville-based Hip Hop/Indie Pop emcee Spoken Nerd, but this isn’t your typical rap project. He rhymes playfully at times, singing and/or rapping, juxtaposing his style with real-life situations and subject matter. Occasionally Spoken Nerd will find inspiration in films and will put it into song. With eight full-length albums into his career, the rapper has built a healthy catalog of music, which doesn’t include the number of EPs and singles released.