‘Licorice Pizza’ subverts genre

Paul Thomas Anderson’s film challenges classic tropes, opens new pathways bringing refreshing change

Licorice+Pizzas+Alana+Kane+is+the+protagonist+who+characterizes+a+token%2C+spunky+coming+of+age+character.

Sophie Leung-Lieu

Licorice Pizza’s Alana Kane is the protagonist who characterizes a token, spunky coming of age character.

Universal Pictures UK

Naomi Di-Capua, staff reporter

Coming of age. A theme that Hollywood and many more have been obsessed with for years. Some of the most notable films within recent years, such as Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You, and a fan favorite Lady Bird, all surround themselves with the idea of growing up and transforming into one’s more mature self, typically through a romantic relationship. 

Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film Licorice Pizza takes the familiar characteristics of our beloved coming of age films, and offers a new and refreshing juxtaposition to the theme. An un coming of age film.

Set in the San Fernando Valley in 1973 over the course of a two hour long film, protagonist Alana Kane portrayed by Alana Haim serves as the token “spunky girl,” unable to be contained by any guy, with a mind of her own that says and does what she wants when she wants. 

Our story truly begins however, when Alana meets Gary Valentine, played by Cooper Hoffman. Gary is an innocent 15-year-old boy who is very invested in his nonexistent acting career (which slowly disintegrates throughout the movie) and instantly falls for Kane. 

One issue though. Kane is 25. Immediately this is the lead oddity of our film. A relationship with an age gap of 10 years? Seems weird, and it is. But, as the film goes on, one begins to notice this little quirk less and less, and begins to see how Alana acts more like a 15-year-old within the relationship. 

One issue though. Kane is 25. Immediately this is the lead oddity of our film. A relationship with an age gap of 10 years? Seems weird, and it is.”

With the progression of the plot, Alana and Gary meet and within an odd turn of events go on to get various jobs and start businesses together. For Alana each job begins to serve as representation for her own personal growth (or lack thereof). 

For example, they begin with opening a water bed company, something that I feel dumb even writing, and which obviously expressed a level of immaturity that writers wanted to capture. In this first business endeavor Gary and Alana sell their mattresses around the San Fernando Valley. But by the end of our movie, Alana finishes the film working in a campaign office, a job that she sees as establishing her as a serious woman. 

Gary’s innocence and strive to grow up coupled with Alana’s stubborn “maturity” creates the perfect immature relationship. A combination where each strives to make the other as jealous as possible in a desperate call out for a need of attention from the other. 

Throughout Alana and Gary’s job adventures and excursions, they run into a host of different characters, all adults may I add. While in many coming of age films, there always seems to be an adult character which our lead protagonist often looks up to or attempts to imitate. Anderson again, takes a new approach, and frankly makes all the adults in this film absolute idiots. 

During one of Gary and Alanas water bed delivery services, they deliver to the house of Jon Peters (yes, the 1970s-80s movie producer Jon Peters) who is played by a fan favorite Bradley Cooper. Peters instantly establishes himself as someone no kid should look up to. He’s rude, immature, and apparently very late for his date with Barbra Streisand. 

In an act of rebellion and some might say stupidity Gary and Alana decide to flood Peter’s house with the water in the bed and then go on to break the windshield of his bright red sports car.

While the plot offered a much needed change to the genre (almost creating its own), the visuals of this film are truly what brought it together.”

In another scene Gary goes into an audition for his tenuous acting career, where he meets with Gale who is played by the hilarious Maya Rudolph. In the end of Gary’s audition, Gale as politely as she can asks Gary to leave, very obviously talking down to him, in a way that many adolescents find infuriating. 

While the plot offered a much needed change to the genre (almost creating its own), the visuals of this film are truly what brought it together. Bright lights coupled with muted tones complimented the old 70’s theme of the setting and visually created an absolutely stunning film. 

I think a specifically notable example of this through our film are the scenes where the feelings of the characters are directly translated into the visuals. There is no debate that in the process of the film’s creation, immense thought was given to how cinematographers could translate plot and  setting into a physical feeling for the audience.

In short, Licorice Pizza’s new view of the novelty coming of age genre, creates a film which might have you scratching your head. The quirky and fun plot, and beautiful graphics, does truly create a must watch film that is definitely worth two hours of your time.