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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
The pre-publicity for Licorice Pizza tells us this is Anderson’s most “relaxed” movie yet, which means his most personal. Set in the suburbs of Los Angeles in 1973, it tells the story of a 15-year-old entrepreneur, named Gary Valentine, played by Cooper Hoffman, the son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was one of Anderson’s favourite actors.
His co-star is Alana Haim, who plays Alana Kane, a 25-year-old girl whom Gary decides is the love of his life. As with Cooper Hoffman, this is Haim’s screen debut. She is known as a singer and multi-intrumentalist with the Californian pop band, Haim, which consists of Alana, and her two older sisters, Danielle and Este. Both sisters, along with the Haims’ mother and father, are featured in this film, virtually playing themselves. Cooper’s two small sisters, Tallulah and Willa, also play small roles.
Although Licorice Pizza is really a double-hander, in which Gary and Alana, two relative unknowns, dominate every scene, the movie is notable for an all-star support cast. Sean Penn plays Jack Holden, a thinly disguised version of an aging, delusional William Holden; Bradley Cooper is Jon Peters, the notorious celebrity hairdresser turned Hollywood producer, who dated Barbra Streisand (and was recently married to Pamela Anderson for 12 hours!). Both Penn and Cooper put in bravura, show-stealing performances, as men unhinged by their immersion in the film industry.
There’s never been a film about Hollywood that domesticates and debunks the dream factory so adroitly. The cast is made up of people who have spent their lives within this milieu, which has its own, unique kind of normal. Anderson himself is a product of this world and these folks are his tribe. The movie itself is named after a chain of Southern California record stores that flourished in the 70s.