Licorice Pizza

Licorice Pizza ★★★½

the discourse i saw about this movie online really did not prepare me for how much of it was about waterbeds

The fact that the movie works owes a lot to the efficient way Gary and Alana are characterized by their personal conflicts mirroring each other: Gary is a teen who desperately wants to be perceived as older than he actually is, while Alana is dissatisfied with her adult life and longs for the time when her future was still hers to define. He, though, is not really as mature as he would like to be, and she is unable to let go of her misgivings, tormented by the awareness that what she is doing is weird and wrong. The toxic dynamic is completely believable, and I found myself really invested in it in a way you would be invested in a train crash.

The ending only read as horrifying, reflecting the air of unease lurking under the completely hollow period piece nostalgia, with bigotry lurking at every corner. It works with how the love story seems framed as Gary's idealized fantasy, a horny daydream about what would happen if a 16-year-old approached a woman ten years older than he is. It also fits curiously with the motif of cinema – the characters, constantly being asked if they are a couple, are definitely performing a kind of cultural script that does not exactly represent who they really are. It does not seem like a coincidence that their climactic meeting happens in front of a movie theater.

On the negative side, the movie is pretty meandering – while not an inherently bad thing, it does mean that the core points are rephrased and reiterated a lot, and every episode needs to succeed on its own merits. Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling all of it. For instance, while I found the truck setpiece to be amazing, I wasn't really feeling all the showbiz stuff; maybe there was some specific cultural nostalgia that didn't grab me.

Anyway, I'm thinking about waterbeds again. Made from oil, filled with water and needing to be heated – a fantastic symbol for the Western decadence hurling us towards a climate apocalypse at present? And that's not even mentioning the current global energy crisis. The sexual element doesn't feel irrelevant either, when you think of the dissonance of Gary being a somewhat repressed teenager who both desperately wants to and is struggling to enter the world of adults which he does not completely understand. Honestly, I think waterbeds might be the key to all of this, an arguable axis around which the whole movie revolves.

Licorice Pizza: a really great movie about false nostalgia, waterbeds, driving a truck down a hill in reverse, and a lot of other stuff I found myself not being that into. Still, the highs were pretty high, from the performances to the soundtrack to the visuals.

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