As part of my 2022 Oscars marathon, I recently tuned in to watch Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza. Not having seen a lot of the director’s films, I had to Google to find out that the film is Anderson’s way of remembering the Southern California of the 1970’s. A fictional portrayal of the life of Gary Goetzman, Anderson’s producer friend, is coupled with a host of pop-culture references to form the crux of the film. However, in the midst of all the fun, chaos and nostalgia lies an innocent love story; something I’ll be primarily talking about in this piece. Spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen the film.
From the very first scene, the makers try to build intrigue and curiosity by showing us a fifteen year old guy who doesn’t just attempt to flirt with a twenty five year old woman, but also manages to hit it off with her and bag a first date. This premise, on paper, is quite unusual and weird. But there’s an honest charm in the way they interact with each other, a certain freshness in the exchanged smiles that feels strangely romantic. And my interest grew when I saw them coming back home from their dinner date. It’s then that we get a peek into their minds and what they would eventually manifest.
Alana, who is reprimanded for coming back late, wants to escape and be on her own. Meanwhile Gary, who resumes babysitting his younger brother, manifests a ‘happily ever after’ with the woman he just went out with (full on Bollywood right?).
Controlling the mind and thoughts to attain what we want, or manifestation, has become a popular spiritual practice today. But just like the literal meaning of the word, even spiritual manifestations are little events or symptoms that cater to the ultimate life purpose and destiny of an individual human spirit. I felt that this is the belief communicated by Anderson through the journey of Gary and Alana.
The story has moments when the two are bound by passion and concern and again contrarily repulsed, either through the definitive age gap or a childish ego tussle. But somehow, every situation, event and person are placed in their path by the universe to make them realise the correct direction for them to pursue. The sequence of events and their respective takeaways make both the viewers and the lead pair realise something; Gary’s love was meant to be reciprocated and Alana can achieve positive growth only with Gary.
Licorice Pizza also creates a modern rendition of the “opposites attract” trope. And while most films use this tool as an essential part of the plot, Anderson goes deeper by examining the opposite natures.
Gary has the vision for new ideas but Alana has the factual knowledge to run a venture. At the same time, Alana has the competence to grow in her career but it’s Gary who tells her how to go about it. They’ll be rude to each other, make fun of one another but will also be there for each with all their might. It’s their different natures that makes them complete one another.
And thus, when I see them together in the final scene, holding hands and running together with excitement, I don’t know what the future holds for them. But I know that their love for each other is built on the best of intentions and a strong, concrete foundation.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.