The story of Alana Kane and Gary Valentine growing up, running around and going through the treacherous navigation of first love in the San Fernando Valley, 1973. Ralph Potts reviews the Blu-ray release of writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza.




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The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:


Extras:


Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

85



Details:

Studio and Year: Universal - 2021
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 134 minutes
Genre: Drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC
Video Aspect: 2.39:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, French DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Alana Hami, Cooper Hoffman, Benny Safdie, Tom Waits, Bradley Cooper, Sean Penn
Written & Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Music by: Jonny Greenwood
Region Code: A,B,C

Release Date: May 17, 2022


"Written & Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson"


Synopsis:

The story of Alana Kane and Gary Valentine growing up, running around and going through the treacherous navigation of first love in the San Fernando Valley, 1973.


My Take:

Licorice Pizza is a period coming of age story that follows 25-year-old Alana Kane (Haim) and 15-year-old Gary Valentine (Hoffman) and their budding relationship in the San Fernando Valley in 1973. The film was nominated for over 180 awards to-date including three Academy Awards®, eight Critics Choice Awards, and a total of 22 Best Picture nominations.

So, Paul Thomas Anderson’s films are most definitely hit or miss with me. My wife saw the trailer and being a fan of both Bradley Cooper and Sean Penn, she was keenly interested in seeing it. I wasn’t so enthusiastic but, hoped that it would be one of his films that I could connect with.

Let’s start with the idea that a 15-year-old pimply faced teenager would have a shot with a 25-year-old sane woman, despite any shortcomings she may have. Alana is smart, motivated and, seems to have no trouble attracting men. Gary is every bit her equal and, has the drive/motivation and ability to hustle like someone way above his age’s maturity level.

This is the crux of what draws Alana and Gary to one another. This is what I found intriguing about the story. Initially I thought that it sounded absurd but, it wasn’t long before I caught on to how well Anderson’s writing and direction made their connection plausible, in spite of the age difference. From there Anderson continues to push the envelope asking the audience to overlook how a 15-year-old kid can start not one, but, two successful businesses. Maintain a string of relationships with professional people that get him perks that he successfully uses to further his endeavors. Somehow it isn’t long before these things are overlooked and you’re invested in Alana and Gary who, together, make the film tick.

Unfortunately, things begin to slide off of the rails. The introduction of ancillary characters and narrative offshoots that take Gary and Alana in separate directions don’t work nearly as well as when they are together. The narrative has lots of moving parts and extreme amounts of dialogue that are blended together. With the number of elements tossed into the mix, many come across as an incomplete thought. The scattershot nature of the editing certainly contributed to this feeling (note that there are a handful of scenes featured in the trailer that never made it to the finished product).

At two hours and fourteen minutes Licorice Pizza runs long and the odd ebb and flow to the proceedings make it feel longer. I will say that I liked the characters in Alana and Gary and found the performances by Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman to be what made the best parts of the film work (loved the final moment). When all was said and done, Licorice Pizza garnered a lukewarm reaction from both my wife and I. At some point down the road, I may give it another spin to see if that bears more fruit.



Replay Value:



Parental Guide:

The rating is for language, sexual material and some drug use.


AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.



Audio: 80
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)


    • Dynamics:
    • Low frequency effects:
    • Surround Sound presentation:
    • Clarity/Detail:
    • Dialog Reproduction:
    • DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element): NA


Video: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)



    • Resolution/Clarity:
    • Black Level/Shadow Detail:
    • Color Reproduction:
    • Fleshtones:
    • Compression:


Licorice Pizza comes to Blu-ray Disc from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound.

This is a solid high-definition video presentation that is reminiscent of a new release film coming to Blu-ray. The photography utilizes varying visual aesthetics to set the thematic tone of specific scenes however, none differ vastly and provide a predominantly uniform presentation. Colors can range from sullen to natural to deeply saturated. Flesh tones are predominantly unaffected and offer lifelike tonal variety with noticeably warmer complexional emphasis. Resolution is excellent overall as images onscreen offer delineated close ups and appreciable refinement during wide angle pans. The beautifully captured images of the various shooting locations look terrific in high definition. Blacks are deep and detail in low lighting and shadows ranges from excellent to slightly above average. Depth is only minutely affected as the sequences shot at night look great. There is a light veil of grain that permeates but, never intrudes.

The lossless audio soundtrack capably delivers the elements within the recording and sounds very good overall. High level detail provides plenty of depth and audible texture to voices while enhancing the audibility of subtle background sounds within the mix. Being a film driven predominantly by dialogue didn’t afford this presentation many opportunities for active surround sound. Its use was primarily to create ambient environmental sounds and add a bit more envelopment and depth to the excellent 70’s era music featured in the story.


Bonus Features:
  • Camera Tests
  • The Handman Scene
  • Fat Bernie’s Commercial
  • Behind-the-Scenes
  • DVD
  • Digital Code




Final Thoughts:

Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson Licorice Pizza (a name never once used in the film) is a quirky, off beat, coming-of-age period film that asks much of the audience. I found it to be mildly entertaining but, just a bit too far left of center for my taste. It comes to Blu-ray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment featuring solid technical merits mated with a lackluster supplemental offering. If you’re a devout fan of writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson’s filmmaking style I suspect Licorice Pizza might be up your alley. I would strongly suggest a rental prior to purchase for those that are curious.






Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

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JVC DLA-NZ7 4K Ultra High-Definition Laser Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman color calibration software and Portrait Displays C6 HDR2000 colorimeter from Portrait.com)
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7706 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Oppo BDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/Roomie Remote V6 Universal Remote Control
SVS Ultra Tower Speakers (Gloss Finish)
SVS Ultra Center Channel (Gloss Finish)
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Niles Audio In-Ceiling/In-Wall Series Speakers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems