Cinema. Sweet ’n’ Sour: Licorice Pizza

Licorice Pizza

The I’M Digest presents a new column about the cinematic world as a mirror of society’s current aesthetics, full of fashion and artistic influences as portrayed in contemporary moving images and films.

For its first review, Multimedia Arts student Jessica García shared and illustrated her experience at a recent screening in Florence of the Oscar-nominated film, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza (2021). 

Licorice Pizza


Text and images by Jessica García


Gary Valentine is a big-hearted presumptuous boy who has a talent for blabbing and entrepreneurship. His multiple hobbies helped mask the insecurities of being fifteen years old.

All of which are only revealed to the surface by his ultimate crush Alana Kane, a girl who seems to be desperately looking for an exit ticket away from her hometown, teenage drama, and her parent’s obstinance.
This delectable pair completes and complements each other in one of the most unusual combinations for the spectator’s palate, sweet and salty: a Licorice Pizza

The film takes place under the warm Californian sun, where Anderson cleverly disguises current events of the mid-70s through anecdotes and a refreshingly unpredictable take on a romantic coming-of-age comedy.

It is brought to life with details that make the audience get a spoonful of the soul of the 70s, somehow craved to be trendy again today: reckless Hollywood stars, popular absurd inventions, consumerism, eating fast food in your car, awkward haircuts, and teenagers acting like grownups, always hinting throughout the film to the hidden economic and political happenings of the decade.

Subtle accessories support the cast by enhancing a nostalgic environment, including props as insignificant as a metal lunch box or the home phones that merge with the outfits and wallpaper backgrounds.


The character’s styles echo their strong identities. Gary – played by Cooper Hoffman, son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman – usually wears warm tones and stripes, put together, and “professional” looks that occasionally get untucked and wrinkled to remind you he is still a young boy.

The tacky mismatched white and pink suit he wears to impress girls and clients still doesn’t cover his actual age. On the other hand, Alana – played by Alana Haim –always wears cool tones, purples, and florals.

Her intense looks mimic her organic and raw acting, from typical tight short-sleeved t-shirts and flares to flowy and braless two-piece halter sets that reflect a spirit trying to be set free. The two are opposites and often influence each other, creating a unique clash that captures the film’s soul.

Licorice Pizza
© Jessica García, 2022

Throughout the film, these two inexperienced daydreamers continuously get lost through alleys, San Fernando Valley diners, and the momentary stages of stupid young love – the best kind of love.

Licorice Pizza has a breeze that carries you along with the two lovers’ roller-coaster-like relationship, lifting you from the edge of your seat with cluelessness (in the best possible way), letting you wonder and come back alive.

Curiously enough, this chaotically energizing film had the theater filled with people mainly from the decade portrayed on the big screen. In my experience, these people were the ones who had the best and loudest laughs, proving that this work is not only gratifying for young people but also makes some reminisce and fall in love again without cares or filters. 

Jessica García is an undergraduate student in Multimedia Arts at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.


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