Is a coming-of-age film considered nostalgia if it follows your own personal timeframe of growing up? Licorice Pizza is at the top of countless Top Ten critics’ lists and has been nominated for Best Picture. But as a person who was approximately the same age as the lead character in 1973, I found the fact that I had an almost identical haircut then as a horrifying reminder of what it was like be a teenager in the 70s. And I am referencing the male lead, not the Alana Haim character.
Director Paul Thomas Anderson created a story set in that era that is very true to the hideous clothing and ridiculous attitudes of the time, but the film is a little too specific to the California lifestyle to be universal. Over halfway through it, I still couldn’t figure out what it was about—a series of random events in the life of kids? The stupidity of teenagers? How not to run a waterbed store in the middle of an energy crisis? When even the title has to be assumed knowledge, it makes those of us who were being awkward elsewhere feel disconnected from whatever the plot was supposed to be. (Licorice Pizza was the name of a record store chain in southern CA., but it is never explained or even referenced in the movie.) There are also incidents of casual sexism and racism that were part of the seventies, but sit uneasily for today’s audience.
Fans of Anderson might find this another winner, but I found it disjointed with unappealing characters. But it did make me nostalgic for the waterbed I had for ten years.
The Popcorn Kernels of Truth give this film One Kernel. A solitary, unpopped Old Maid is all I can manage for this movie, but I add the caveat that I found the seventies to be an awkward time to be a teenager and did not particularly want to revisit it. Younger viewers may find this film hilarious.