Three months after catching it on a huge Westwood screen, I re-watched Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Licorice Pizza on a subtitled DVD screener. From the comfort of my living room…me and the cats.
It played a little better this time. I’ve been kicking it around and thinking it through all these weeks, and I still say that the finale in which Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman finally embrace like they mean it…this is still the best scene.
Yes, Pizza is still episodic and meandering, but that’s the idea and I get that now. And I still respect the courage that Anderson showed when he included those two scenes involving John Michael Higgins‘ Jerry Frick and his two (i.e., successive) Japanese wives. The courage, I mean, to say “presentism can blow me…the ’70s were the ’70s, and I’m going to stay true to how things were back then.”
But I have to say that the whole Jon Peters sequence rubbed me the wrong way…again.
If Hoffman’s “Gary Valentine” is one thing besides a good actor, he’s an ambitious businessman (water beds, pinball machines). He knows that a business owner has to keep it together and respect the rules of commerce and keep things at par with his customers. And yet while installing a water bed at the home of a semi-famous guy who’s dating Barbara Streisand, Gary decides that Peters’ bullying manner and asshole personality is bad news and that he has to be somehow flipped off. And so, despite Peters having said there’ll be hell to pay if Gary messes his house up, Gary pulls the watering hose out of the bed and tosses it on the floor, and then he and Alana blow out of Peters’ home and jump into the big truck.
What does Gary think will happen as a result? That the hyper-aggressive Peters will just forget about it? He knows that Peters will hunt him down and turn his life into a raging sea. It’s therefore a completely idiotic scene, and one that completely undermines Gary’s character, and yet Anderson makes it almost entirely about everyone being short of gas.
That aside, Pizza seemed a slightly better film than when I saw it at the Village Westwood on Saturday, November 6th. It’s a much more interesting and humanistic and life-like film than The Power of the Dog.