PTA is arthouse for normies
Release date: November 26, 2021
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Who should watch this movie: Soft boys who watch Die Hard at Christmas. The only one in the friend group excited for the Top Gun reboot.
When should you watch this movie: When you just got your septum pierced and are hoping that the mysterious hottie with cool tattoos will talk to you at the house show tonight.
The sell: I’ll announce my bias upfront: I never got on the Paul Thomas Anderson hype train and I’m not sure I ever will. That train has left the station. What I can say is that our guy Paul is great at coaxing phenomenal performances out of his actors, and that certainly applies here to his latest release, Licorice Pizza. A semi-autobiographical story about a young boy and a less young woman’s attempt to find love and meaning in 70s LA, Licorice Pizza is a fantastical story which dazzles its viewers with gorgeous set pieces, stellar acting, and not much else. Generously, one might argue that the superficial veneer of bombastic storytelling is an intentional evocation of childhood nostalgia. I would argue that, intentional or not, this story, which jumps episodically across bizarre vignettes, fails to find a coherent thesis. Allow me to defend myself now. I am not stranger to the bizarre. I love weird shit. But this is somehow too weird by being not weird enough, or at least overly self-conscious about its weirdness. Walking the tightrope between surreal and hyper-real, this movie loses its audience in the mix. Coherence is not a requirement for a good movie, but it is when a movie is clearly attempting to convey something, anything, and failing. Casting the entire Haim family was a great move though, loved that bit.
Note: I wish they had used a different melody for the shabbat blessings. Maybe I’m just frustrated about that and the movie is fine actually.