Licorice Pizza

You are probably more “with it” than I am, so you probably know that Licorice Pizza is slang for a vinyl phonograph record, that it originates both as an expansion of the abbreviation for “long playing” and as a visual image for the appearance of an LP record, and that it’s the name of a chain of record stores in California. You probably know all that, but I certainly didn’t before seeing the movie of the same name.

Anyway, you want to know what I thought of the movie. It seems to be rather controversial, with opinions ranging from “best film of the past five years” to “meh.” I liked it a lot, but I can’t promise that you will. You can look it up on IMdB, since I never remember names of actors and directors.

It’s well worth reading the review by Christy Lemire (the new Roger Ebert), since she has vastly more knowledge about the setting of the movie than I do. It takes place in the San Fernando Valley in 1973, and the movie is apparently unerringly true to its time and place. (Since I know almost nothing about southern California in general and about L.A. in particular, I will have to take Lemire’s word for it.)

So, you’re waiting to hear what makes it so controversial. First, some viewers—such as Unorthodox’s Mark Oppenheimer and Liel Leibovitz—consider Licorice Pizza a truly Jewish movie and are very enthusiastic about it. Their cohost, Stephanie Butnick, is in the “meh” crowd. The thing is that not very much about it is overtly Jewish: only two and a half scenes worth. The female lead, Alana Haim, is the youngest sister of the band Haim, so we have one Jewish element right away, but Oppenheimer and Leibovitz claim that it’s the entire sensibility of the movie that’s Jewish. I think they’re right, but YMMV.

A second controversial point is that this film is basically a coming-of-age story about a 15-year-old boy and a 23-year-old (or so) young woman. Even though there is nothing overtly sexual about their relationship, it’s full of sexual tension, and that clearly offends some viewers. (Would reactions be different if their ages were reversed? That question is left as an exercise for the reader.)

The third controversy is that some overly sensitive woke viewers are offended by a few scenes. A white man addresses his Japanese wife in a fake Asian accent, another white man playfully slaps a woman on the butt, and both actions are “without consequences.” But this was 1973, for heaven’s sake! There wouldn’t have been consequences half a century ago!

Anyway, you’ll just have to judge for yourself.

Categories: Movies & (occasionally) TV