LICORICE PIZZA – Review by Susan Granger

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It’s the 1970s in the San Fernando Valley when 10th grader Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) first spies Alana Kane (Alana Haim) working for a yearbook headshot photographer. He’s 15 and she’s in her mid-20s. But that doesn’t stop him from asking her for a date.

How will he pay for it? she inquires. Not a problem. He’s a smooth-talking former child star, declaring: “I’m a showman. It’s my calling.”

If not a showman, a real hustler. With entrée to the Valley’s ever-popular Tail O’ The Cock restaurant, he sells waterbeds out of a storefront; when that fad fades, he peddles pinball machines.

(FYI: Considered a form of gambling, pinball was banned from 1939-1973.)

Now if you find it credible that a pimply 15-year-old who doesn’t even have a driver’s license can woo and win an attractive 25-year-old, this story might intrigue you.

Even Alana acknowledges: “Don’t you think it’s weird that I hang out with Gary and his friends all the time?”

So filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love) uses star-studded cameos. Sean Penn is Jack Holden, a fading film star who plops Alana on the back of his motorcycle, and Bradley Cooper is hairstylist-turned-producer Jon Peters, Barbra Streisand’s then-boyfriend.

Diversions like Tom Waits’ aging film director and Harriet Sansom Harris’ casting director are far more interesting than Gary’s avid pursuit of Alana.

Family connections abound: Cooper Hoffman’s father was Philip Seymour Hoffman. Leonardo DiCaprio’s father George sells a waterbed. Alana Haim’s real-life parents play her parents and her sisters are members of Haim, a Grammy-nominated rock band.

As a youngster, Paul Thomas Anderson had a crush on his teacher, Dolores Rose Haim, Alana’s mother – giving him the idea for the story. And Licorice Pizza was the real name of a vinyl record store that Sam Goody subsequently bought out.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, Licorice Pizza is a far-fetched, improbably frolicsome 5, Oscar-nominated nominated as Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.