Licorice Pizza

Licorice Pizza is a 2021 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. It stars Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman in their film debuts, alongside an ensemble supporting cast including Sean Penn, Tom Waits, Bradley Cooper, and Benny Safdie. Set in 1973, the film follows the development of a young couple's relationship.

Licorice Pizza
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPaul Thomas Anderson
Written byPaul Thomas Anderson
Produced by
  • Sara Murphy
  • Adam Somner
  • Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Michael Bauman
  • Paul Thomas Anderson
Edited byAndy Jurgensen
Music byJonny Greenwood
Distributed by
Release date
  • November 26, 2021 (2021-11-26) (United States)
Running time
134 minutes[2]
  • United States
  • Canada
Budget$40 million[3]
Box office$32.4 million[4][5]

Licorice Pizza was released in the United States in select theaters on November 26, 2021, and had wider release on December 25, 2021.[6] The film received acclaim from critics and received three nominations at the 94th Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay, making it Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's first fully produced, marketed, and distributed film to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in 33 years after 1988's winner Rain Man.[7] It also received three awards from the National Board of Review, including Best Film, was named one of the best films of 2021 by the American Film Institute, and received four nominations at the 79th Golden Globe Awards, including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, along with eight nominations at the 27th Critics' Choice Awards, including Best Picture, where it won Best Comedy. It also received five nominations at the 75th British Academy Film Awards, where it won Best Original Screenplay.


In 1973 San Fernando Valley, 15-year-old actor Gary Valentine prepares for his high school picture day. He notices 25-year-old Alana Kane, a photographer's assistant, and strikes up a flirtatious conversation with her. She rebuffs his advances, but ends up meeting him for dinner and they begin a friendship after Alana makes it clear that they cannot be a romantic couple. Gary prepares for a press tour attached to a film starring Lucy Doolittle. When Gary's mother Anita cannot take him to perform on the tour in New York, he invites Alana to chaperone him instead. On the plane, Alana meets Lance, one of Gary's co-stars, whom she is shown to have an interest in. After returning from New York they begin dating, which Gary reluctantly had to witness while getting burgers with his mom. There he saw Alana and Lance holding hands and smiling. However, after an awkward dinner with Alana's family, the two break up.

Gary starts a successful waterbed company after seeing and trying one out inside a wig shop while randomly walking by the shop. He then sets up a booth to help sell beds at an expo, where he sees Alana for the first time since witnessing her on a date with Lance. Alana reveals that she no longer has a boyfriend and the two seem to reconnect. Out of nowhere two cops apprehend Gary and he is falsely arrested on suspicion of murder. Alana then runs after the cop car all the way to the police station to try to help Gary, however shortly after arriving, he is released due to being falsely identified where he goes to Alana outside and they hug. The pair then runs happily back to the expo together. The movie then cuts to what is to be assumed is after the expo, where Alana is driving Gary and his friends home and we later find out that Alana has now joined with Gary in his waterbed business.

After a successful phone call with a potential waterbed customer, Alana decides she wants to try acting. Gary sets up a meeting with his own talent agent. The meet goes well until Gary gets upset at Alana willing to do nudity for a movie but won't show him her boobs. They are then seen opening a store for the waterbed business named "Fat Bernie's". The opening goes well and a girl who is more Gary's age shows up and they hit it off, eventually going to a back room, assuming to have hooked up in some way. Alana seems jealous of this and sneaks around outside to peek through a window to see Gary and the girl together, after which she storms off, kisses a random guy on the street briefly, and then continues to hurriedly walk down the street and eventually home.

Gary's agent secured an audition for Alana for a film starring the popular Jack Holden. The audition seemed to go very well and she was invited afterwards to the Tail of The Cock restaurant with Holden, which Gary and his friends are also patronizing. The two see each other and Alana is shown to be holding on to and flirting with Holden in a successful attempt to make Gary jealous. A Film director named Rex Blau convinces Holden, a motorcycle enthusiast, to recreate a stunt from one of his movies on a local golf course involving a jump over a fire lit in the sand trap. An inebriated Holden brings Alana along, but she topples off the bike just as she realizes he does not remember her real name. Gary runs to her to make sure that she is unhurt while Holden successfully performs the stunt and wanders off with a party of drunken onlookers. The pair once again reconcile and walk back to the waterbed store where they are seen lying down on a bed together and fall asleep.

The 1973 oil crisis sweeps the country and the waterbed company closes. Gary, Alana, and Gary's friends make one final delivery to Jon Peters' house. Peters leaves to see a film, but not before threatening to murder Gary's brother if the group damages the house, which actually belongs to his girlfriend, Barbra Streisand. After setting up the waterbed, and with Alana's approval, Gary intentionally leaves the hose running in the master bedroom on the floor before leaving with Alana and his brother, commenting that he dislikes Jon Peters. They are waved down by an agitated Peters, whose car has run out of gas. They nervously drive him home to retrieve a gas canister where he remains ignorant of their damage to the house, then to a gas station. Peters attempts to get gas for his car by threatening a customer with a lighter and the gas hose, but when he learns the station is entirely out of fuel, he begins a violent tantrum. Alana and Gary leave him behind, and Gary stops to smash Peters' car, but they run out of gas as well. Alana maneuvers the truck backwards down a long hill to a gas station entirely on the truck's momentum, impressing Gary, but causing Alana to question her recent decisions.

Seeking a different direction in life outside of her friendship with Gary, Alana begins to work as a staffer for city councilman Joel Wachs who is running in the 1973 Los Angeles mayoral election. Gary briefly joins her, but after overhearing from the councilman's aide that pinball will soon be legalized in the Valley, he decides to in that moment to open an arcade, attempting to recruit Alana, who is fed up with Gary's schemes. Gary and Alana argue; Gary mocks Alana's over-commitment to her work as an attempt to seem mature since she's 'old' and hangs out with teenagers, while Alana criticizes Gary's cynical exploitation of the pinball legalization and his indifference to Wachs' political goals. Gary then storms off and takes the car himself to search for pinball machines, leaving Alana behind at his house. Some time later, as Gary prepares for the opening night of his arcade, which is a remodeled version of the Fat Bernie's Waterbeds store, now aptly named Fat Bernie's Pinball Palace. The same night Wachs invites Alana for a drink. She arrives at a restaurant and learns Wachs is gay. Wachs asks Alana to pretend to be his partner Matthew's girlfriend, and take him home to save him political embarrassment, which hurts Matthew's feelings and causes Alana to see Wachs in a different light. Alana apologizes to Matthew for Wachs' dismissive behavior towards him, and they share kind words at his house. Alana goes to Gary's arcade to see him, but he has left to look for her at Wachs' office. They reunite and head for the arcade, where Gary pronounces she will be his wife, and they kiss and run out into the night. Alana tells Gary that she loves him.


Haim's sisters Danielle and Este, father Moti, and mother Donna also appear as Alana Kane's family.[11] The children of Anderson and Rudolph, as well as the relatives and children of other filmmakers and cast members, also appear.[12] Appearing as Gary's friends are Griff Giacchino as Mark, James Kelley as Tim, and Will Angarola as Kirk. John C. Reilly has an uncredited cameo as Fred Gwynne, the actor who portrayed Herman Munster (the credits list him as "Herman Munster as himself"), while Dan Chariton cameos as Sam Harpoon, a director.



Writer, director, and producer Paul Thomas Anderson

Around 2001, Anderson was walking by a middle school in Los Angeles on picture day. He observed one of the students nagging the female photographer and had an idea of the student having an adult relationship with the photographer. The screenplay of Licorice Pizza evolved from this experience and additional stories told to Anderson by his friend Gary Goetzman, who was a child actor who had starred in the film Yours, Mine and Ours with Lucille Ball, appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, and eventually started a waterbed company and pinball arcade. Goetzman at one time delivered a waterbed to Jon Peters's home.[13][14] Anderson considered Fast Times at Ridgemont High and American Graffiti as major influences in the making of Licorice Pizza.[8]

Anderson received permission from Jon Peters to develop a character based on him, on the sole condition that Peters's favorite pick-up line is used. Anderson went on to create a "monster version" of Peters based on 1970s Hollywood producers who had "a reputation for a lot of bravado and aggro energy."[8]

In September 2021, the film was officially titled Licorice Pizza,[15] named after a former chain of record shops in southern California.[16] Anderson explained, "If there's two words that make me kind of have a Pavlovian response and memory of being a child and running around, it's 'licorice' and 'pizza' [...] It instantly takes me back to that time." He added that the words "seemed like a catch-all for the feeling of the film [...] that go well together and maybe capture a mood."[8][14]


Haim plays the lead role of Alana Kane, in her film debut.

Anderson wrote the screenplay with Alana Haim in mind and offered her the lead role in summer 2019.[17] He has a close connection to her band Haim, having directed several of their music videos, and is a close friend of the Haim family.[18] Haim's sisters Este and Danielle and parents Mordechai and Donna were also cast to play the roles of her family.[19] Cooper Hoffman, the son of Philip Seymour Hoffman, was cast late in the process after Anderson found the auditioning young actors too "precocious" and "trained" to match the naturalistic style of Haim's acting.[18] Licorice Pizza marks the feature film debut of both Haim and Hoffman.[19][20] Described as a "family-and-friends project" by the Los Angeles Times, the film also features Anderson's longtime partner Maya Rudolph, their four children, and many of their neighborhood friends in various roles.[14]


Principal photography began in Encino, California, in August 2020,[21] under the working title Soggy Bottom.[22] In November 2020, it was reported that principal photography had wrapped and post-production had begun.[23] A Tudor Revival manor previously owned by actor Lyle Waggoner was used for scenes at Jon Peters's house.[24] Tail o' the Cock, a famed local restaurant that was demolished in 1987, was recreated for the film at the Van Nuys Golf Course.[14][25] Haim spent a week learning to drive trucks, and performed her own stunt in which she backed a truck down a long hill.[17]

Anderson and Michael Bauman (sharing a director of photography credit) shot Licorice Pizza on 35 mm film, using older lenses in order to create the film's 1970s texture.[26]


Licorice Pizza (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
ReleasedNovember 26, 2021 (2021-11-26)
GenreFilm soundtrack

Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood composed the film's score cues. The first trailer for the film, which was released online on September 27, 2021, was set to David Bowie's "Life on Mars?"[27]

The official soundtrack was released by Republic Records. Included are some of the songs featured in the film, as well as one of the original tracks composed by Greenwood.[28]


On December 18, 2019, Focus Features came on to produce and distribute the film.[29] On July 17, 2020, it was reported that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer acquired distribution rights to the film from Focus, and that MGM would set a new start date due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[30]

The film was released in select theaters in the United States on November 26, 2021, by United Artists Releasing, and was followed by a nationwide release on December 25, 2021. It was released in the United Kingdom on January 14, 2022, by Universal Pictures.[6][31]

Home mediaEdit

The film released digitally on March 1, 2022 and on Blu-ray and DVD on May 17, 2022 by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.[32]


Box officeEdit

As of April 13, 2022, Licorice Pizza has grossed $17.3 million in the United States and Canada, and $15.1 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $32.4 million.[4][5]

Licorice Pizza opened in four theaters on November 26, 2021, including the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles. It made $142,000 on its first day, $105,000 on its second, and $89,000 on its third for a $335,000 opening weekend and an average of $83,800 per screen. Audiences were reported to be 72% between the ages of 18 and 34, 66% male, and 70% Caucasian, 19% Latino and Hispanic, 8% Asian, and 3% Black. Close to 70% of all moviegoers were also college graduates.[33][34] In its fifth weekend, the film expanded its release to 786 theaters and entered the box office top ten for the first time with $1.9 million, finishing eighth. During the weekend, 66% of audience members were between the ages of 18 and 34.[35][36] The film went on to earn $1.3 million in its sixth weekend,[37] $981,886 in its seventh,[38] $879,511 in its eighth,[39] $659,953 in its ninth,[40] $630,117 in its tenth,[41] and $644,699 in its eleventh.[42] The film received an expansion in theaters after earning three Academy Award nominations. It made $959,788 in its twelfth weekend, finishing eighth,[43] before dropping out of the box office top ten in its thirteenth weekend with $647,973.[44]

Critical responseEdit

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 91% of 300 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 8.4/10. The website's consensus reads, "Licorice Pizza finds Paul Thomas Anderson shifting into a surprisingly comfortable gear – and getting potentially star-making performances out of his fresh-faced leads."[45] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 90 out of 100, based on 55 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[46] Audiences polled by PostTrak gave the film an 87% positive score, with 73% saying they would definitely recommend it.[47]

The film generated some controversy around the ten-year age gap between the main characters (and the fact that the male protagonist is a 15-year-old minor)[48] as well as for its inclusion of two scenes in which the character Jerry uses a demeaning mock Asian accent when speaking to his Japanese wives.[49] Regarding the latter, director Anderson defended the scenes as being contemporaneous and accurate portrayals of the movie's time period.[50] The group Media Action Network for Asian Americans, however, called for an awards boycott for the movie due to the decision to include these two scenes without any pushback from the characters.[49]



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External linksEdit