The list of directors with “must watch” movies is short, but Paul Thomas Anderson is definitely on it. While he’s taken his time over the years, when his flicks hit they are among the best the industry has to offer. And his next movie, Licorice Pizza looks very much like it follows suit. From both a stylistic and story perspective, the first Licorice Pizza trailer for the film has us entering a Paul Thomas Anderson world that looks both enormous in scope, but incredibly simple at its core. Frankly, it could already be lining up to be one of the best of the year. While many directors wouldn’t get that kind of benefit of the doubt, Paul Thomas Anderson has earned it.
In the first trailer for Licorice Pizza, we enter a period piece, set in the 1970s and focused on the film industry at the time. It follows two teenagers, one vying to break into the entertainment industry as an actor and the other his love interest. They are every bit as awkward as you would imagine teenagers to be in what looks, in part, like a coming of age story about unrequited love and the possible trappings of fame. Take a look at the first Licorice Pizza trailer:
The Licorice Pizza trailer follows newcomer Cooper Hoffman as Gary Valentine, a young aspiring actor. Alana Haim plays his love interest, Alana Kane, as they navigate the teenage world of awkward love and hormones with the backdrop of Valentine’s rise as a working actor. Interestingly enough, Paul Thomas Anderson has worked with Haim before, having directed a number of videos for her band aptly named, Haim. Alana and her three two sisters Danielle and Este comprise the popular group.
In the Licorice Pizza trailer, we also meet some of the eccentric folks Paul Thomas Anderson is known for bringing to life in his movies. There’s Bradley Cooper who plays John Peters, the famed producer who, as we see in the trailer, briefly dated Barbara Streisand during the 1970s. Cooper looks like he goes off the rails (hilariously) as the character, an eccentric and somewhat controversial producer who took a rather unconventional path into the Hollywood elite. Other notables include Sean Penn, Tom Waits, and Maya Rudolph.
The title for the movie is an odd one. What does Licorice Pizza mean? It suggests that a pizza parlor could be one of the main points of the film. Without watching the trailer, one might assume that the film dives into a history of pizza, or that it’s the title for a group coming up with a new kind of Detroit style pizza. Knowing that it’s a Paul Thomas Anderson coming of age story clues the audience in to expect something a little more offbeat and quirky than that. In fact, the unusual title has nothing at all to do with food. Licorice Pizza was the name of a record store chain in Southern California. They’re no longer around, but the stores meant a lot to the film’s writer, who associated the record stores with that time in his life. Hence, the unusual title for the film.
Set to David Bowie’s Life on Mars?, the Licorice Pizza trailer looks like it gets back to some of the awkward laughs and stunning filmmaking we’ve seen in previous classic Paul Thomas Anderson movies like Inherent Vice, Boogie Nights, and even Magnolia. Each had a sadness to them that was punctuated by characters somewhat out of control within their own worlds which made for something like a comedic pathos. Thomas Anderson is great in this way.
Licorice Pizza is set to have a limited release on November 26th and then will go wide on December 25th. If his resume and the Licorice Pizza trailer is any indication, this could be one of the best movies of the year, released to coincide with an Academy Award push for sure. He’s been nominated six times before but is yet to take home the hardware. Could Licorice Pizza be the one that gets him there? It would be a long time coming.