Licorice Pizza
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPaul Thomas Anderson
Written byPaul Thomas Anderson
Produced by
  • Sara Murphy
  • Adam Somner
  • Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Michael Bauman
  • Paul Thomas Anderson
Edited byAndy Jurgensen
Music byJonny Greenwood
Distributed by
Release date
  • November 26, 2021 (2021-11-26) (United States)
Running time
133 minutes[2]
  • United States
  • Canada
Budget$40 million[3]
Box office$32.7 million[4][5]

Licorice Pizza is a 2021 American comedy drama film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. It stars Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman in their film debuts, alongside an ensemble supporting cast including Sean Penn, Tom Waits, Bradley Cooper, and Benny Safdie. Set in 1973, the film follows the development of a young couple's relationship.

Licorice Pizza was released in the United States in select theaters on November 26, 2021, and had wider release on December 25, 2021.[6] The film received acclaim from critics and received three nominations at the 94th Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay, making it Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's first fully produced, marketed, and distributed film to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in 33 years after 1988's winner Rain Man.[7] It also received three awards from the National Board of Review, including Best Film, was named one of the best films of 2021 by the American Film Institute, and received four nominations at the 79th Golden Globe Awards, including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, along with eight nominations at the 27th Critics' Choice Awards, including Best Picture, where it won Best Comedy. It also received five nominations at the 75th British Academy Film Awards, where it won Best Original Screenplay.


In 1973 San Fernando Valley, 15-year-old actor Gary Valentine prepares for his high school picture day. He notices Alana Kane, a photographer's assistant in her 20s, and strikes up a flirtatious conversation with her. She rebuffs his advances, but ends up meeting him for dinner, becoming friends after Alana makes it clear that they cannot be a romantic couple. Gary prepares for a press tour attached to a film starring Lucy Doolittle. When Gary's mother Anita cannot take him to perform on the tour in New York, he invites Alana to chaperone him instead. On the plane, Alana meets Lance, one of Gary's co-stars, whom she is shown to have an interest in. After returning from New York they begin dating, which makes Gary feel jealous. However, after an awkward dinner with Alana's family, she and Lance break up.

Gary starts a successful waterbed company after randomly having come across one at a wig shop. He then sets up a booth to help sell beds at an expo, where he sees Alana for the first time since witnessing her on a date with Lance. Alana reveals that she no longer has a boyfriend and the two seem to reconnect. Suddenly, two cops apprehend Gary and he is falsely arrested on suspicion of murder. Alana runs after the cop car all the way to the police station to try to help Gary, though shortly after arriving, he is released due to having been falsely identified. He runs out and hugs Alana. The pair then run happily back to the expo together. After the expo, Alana drives Gary and his friends home, and she later joins the business.

After a successful phone call with a potential waterbed customer where she's advised by Gary to act seductive, Alana decides she wants to try acting. Gary sets up a meeting with his own talent agent. The meeting goes well until Gary gets upset at Alana willing to get nude for a movie, as she won't show him her breasts. Shortly after, she agrees to show him them, but slaps him when he requests to touch them. Later, they open a store for their waterbeds named "Fat Bernie's". The opening goes well, and Sue, a girl Gary knows who's closer to him in age than Alana, shows up. They enjoy each other's company and eventually go to a back room to hook up. Alana appears to be jealous of this and sneaks around outside to peek through a window to catch a glimpse of Gary and Sue, after which she storms off, briefly kisses a passerby man on the street, and then continues to hurriedly walk down the street and eventually home.

Gary's agent secures an audition for Alana for a film starring popular veteran actor Jack Holden. The audition seems to go very well, and Alana gets invited to the Tail of the Cock restaurant with Holden, which Gary and his friends are also patronizing. The two see each other and Alana holds on to and flirts with Holden in a successful attempt to make Gary jealous. A film director named Rex Blau convinces Holden, a motorcycle enthusiast, to recreate a stunt from one of his movies on a local golf course involving a jump over a fire lit in the sand trap. An inebriated Holden brings Alana along, but she topples off the bike just as she realizes he does not remember her real name. Gary runs to her to make sure that she is unhurt while Holden successfully performs the stunt and wanders off with a party of drunken onlookers. The pair once again reconcile and walk back to the waterbed store where they lie down on a bed together. Gary reaches out his hand to touch the sleeping Alana's breast, but decides against it and goes to sleep.

The 1973 oil crisis sweeps the country and the waterbed company closes, as material made from oil is needed to manufacture the beds. Alana, Gary and his friends make one final delivery to Jon Peters' house. Peters leaves to see a film, but threatens to murder Gary's brother if they cause damage to the house, which actually belongs to his girlfriend, Barbra Streisand. After setting up the waterbed, and with Alana's approval, Gary intentionally leaves the hose running in the master bedroom before leaving with Alana and his brother, commenting that he dislikes Jon Peters. They are waved down by an agitated Peters, whose car has run out of gas. They nervously drive him home to retrieve a gas canister where he remains ignorant of their damage to the house, then to a gas station. Peters attempts to get gas for his car by threatening a customer with a lighter and the gas hose, but when he learns the station is entirely out of fuel, he begins a violent tantrum. Alana and Gary leave him behind, and Gary stops to smash Peters' car, but they run out of gas as well. Alana maneuvers the truck backwards down a long hill to a gas station entirely on the truck's momentum, impressing Gary, but causing Alana to question her recent decisions.

Seeking a different direction in life outside of her friendship with Gary, Alana begins to work as a staffer for city councilman Joel Wachs who is running in the 1973 Los Angeles mayoral election. Gary briefly joins her, but after overhearing from the councilman's aide that pinball will soon be legalized in the Valley, he decides to in that moment to open an arcade, attempting to recruit Alana, who is fed up with Gary's schemes. Gary and Alana argue; Gary mocks Alana's over-commitment to her work as an attempt to seem mature since she's 'old' and hangs out with teenagers, while Alana criticizes Gary's cynical exploitation of the pinball legalization and his indifference to Wachs' political goals. Gary then storms off and takes the car himself to search for pinball machines, angering Alana and leaving her behind at his house. Some time later, as Gary prepares for the opening night of his arcade, which is a remodeled version of the Fat Bernie's waterbed store, now renamed Fat Bernie's Pinball Palace. That same night, Wachs invites Alana for a drink. She arrives at a restaurant and learns that Wachs is secretly gay. Wachs asks Alana to pretend to be his partner Matthew's girlfriend, and take him home to save him political embarrassment, which hurts Matthew's feelings and causes Alana to see Wachs in a different light. Alana apologizes to Matthew for Wachs' dismissive behavior towards him, and they share kind words that make her realize she needs to go back to Gary. Alana goes to Gary's arcade to see him, but he has left to look for her at Wachs' office. They eventually find each other and head for the arcade, where Gary pronounces she will be his wife, and they kiss and run out into the night. Alana tells Gary that she loves him.


Haim's sisters Danielle and Este, father Moti, and mother Donna also appear as Alana Kane's family.[11] The children of Anderson and Rudolph, as well as the relatives and children of other filmmakers and cast members, also appear.[12] Appearing as Gary's friends are Griff Giacchino as Mark, James Kelley as Tim, and Will Angarola as Kirk. John C. Reilly has an uncredited cameo as Fred Gwynne, the actor who portrayed Herman Munster (the credits list him as "Herman Munster as himself"), while Dan Chariton cameos as Sam Harpoon, a director.



Writer, director, and producer Paul Thomas Anderson

Around 2001, Anderson was walking by a middle school in Los Angeles on picture day. He observed one of the students nagging the female photographer and had an idea of the student having an adult relationship with the photographer. The screenplay of Licorice Pizza evolved from this experience and additional stories told to Anderson by his friend Gary Goetzman, who was a child actor who had starred in the film Yours, Mine and Ours with Lucille Ball, appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, and eventually started a waterbed company and pinball arcade. Goetzman at one time delivered a waterbed to Jon Peters's home.[13][14] Anderson considered Fast Times at Ridgemont High and American Graffiti as major influences in the making of Licorice Pizza.[8]

Anderson received permission from Jon Peters to develop a character based on him, on the sole condition that Peters's favorite pick-up line is used. Anderson went on to create a "monster version" of Peters based on 1970s Hollywood producers who had "a reputation for a lot of bravado and aggro energy."[8]

In September 2021, the film was officially titled Licorice Pizza,[15] named after a former chain of record shops in southern California.[16] Anderson explained, "If there's two words that make me kind of have a Pavlovian response and memory of being a child and running around, it's 'licorice' and 'pizza' [...] It instantly takes me back to that time." He added that the words "seemed like a catch-all for the feeling of the film [...] that go well together and maybe capture a mood."[8][14]


Haim plays the lead role of Alana Kane, in her film debut.

Anderson wrote the screenplay with Alana Haim in mind and offered her the lead role in summer 2019.[17] He has a close connection to her band Haim, having directed several of their music videos, and is a close friend of the Haim family.[18] Haim's sisters Este and Danielle and parents Mordechai and Donna were also cast to play the roles of her family.[19] Cooper Hoffman, the son of Philip Seymour Hoffman, was cast late in the process after Anderson found the auditioning young actors too "precocious" and "trained" to match the naturalistic style of Haim's acting.[18] Licorice Pizza marks the feature film debut of both Haim and Hoffman.[19][20] Described as a "family-and-friends project" by the Los Angeles Times, the film also features Anderson's longtime partner Maya Rudolph, their four children, and many of their neighborhood friends in various roles.[14]


Principal photography began in Encino, California, in August 2020,[21] under the working title Soggy Bottom.[22] In November 2020, it was reported that principal photography had wrapped and post-production had begun.[23] A Tudor Revival manor previously owned by actor Lyle Waggoner was used for scenes at Jon Peters's house.[24] Tail o' the Cock, a famed local restaurant that was demolished in 1987, was recreated for the film at the Van Nuys Golf Course.[14][25] Haim spent a week learning to drive trucks, and performed her own stunt in which she backed a truck down a long hill.[17]

Anderson and Michael Bauman (sharing a director of photography credit) shot Licorice Pizza on 35 mm film, using older lenses in order to create the film's 1970s texture.[26]


Licorice Pizza (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
ReleasedNovember 26, 2021 (2021-11-26)
GenreFilm soundtrack

Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood composed the film's score cues. The first trailer for the film, which was released online on September 27, 2021, was set to David Bowie's "Life on Mars?"[27]

The official soundtrack was released by Republic Records. Included are some of the songs featured in the film, as well as one of the original tracks composed by Greenwood.[28]


On December 18, 2019, Focus Features came on to produce and distribute the film.[29] On July 17, 2020, it was reported that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer acquired distribution rights to the film from Focus, and that MGM would set a new start date due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[30]

The film was released in select theaters in the United States on November 26, 2021, by United Artists Releasing, and was followed by a nationwide release on December 25, 2021. It was released in the United Kingdom on January 14, 2022, by Universal Pictures.[6][31]

Home media

The film released digitally on March 1, 2022 and on Blu-ray and DVD on May 17, 2022 by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.[32]


Box office

Licorice Pizza grossed $17.3 million in the United States and Canada, and $15.4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $32.7 million.[4][5]

Licorice Pizza opened in four theaters on November 26, 2021, including the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles. It made $142,000 on its first day, $105,000 on its second, and $89,000 on its third for a $335,000 opening weekend and an average of $83,800 per screen. Audiences were reported to be 72% between the ages of 18 and 34, 66% male, and 70% Caucasian, 19% Latino and Hispanic, 8% Asian, and 3% Black. Close to 70% of all moviegoers were also college graduates.[33][34] In its fifth weekend, the film expanded its release to 786 theaters and entered the box office top ten for the first time with $1.9 million, finishing eighth. During the weekend, 66% of audience members were between the ages of 18 and 34.[35][36] The film went on to earn $1.3 million in its sixth weekend,[37] $981,886 in its seventh,[38] $879,511 in its eighth,[39] $659,953 in its ninth,[40] $630,117 in its tenth,[41] and $644,699 in its eleventh.[42] The film received an expansion in theaters after earning three Academy Award nominations. It made $959,788 in its twelfth weekend, finishing eighth,[43] before dropping out of the box office top ten in its thirteenth weekend with $647,973.[44]

Critical response

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 91% of 300 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 8.4÷10. The website's consensus reads, "Licorice Pizza finds Paul Thomas Anderson shifting into a surprisingly comfortable gear – and getting potentially star-making performances out of his fresh-faced leads."[45] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 90 out of 100, based on 55 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[46] Audiences polled by PostTrak gave the film an 87% positive score, with 73% saying they would definitely recommend it.[47]

The film generated some controversy around the ten-year age gap between the main characters (and the fact that the male protagonist is a 15-year-old minor)[48] as well as for its inclusion of two scenes in which the character Jerry uses a demeaning mock Asian accent when speaking to his Japanese wives.[49] Regarding the latter, director Anderson defended the scenes as being contemporaneous and accurate portrayals of the movie's time period.[50] The group Media Action Network for Asian Americans, however, called for an awards boycott for the movie due to the decision to include these two scenes without any pushback from the characters.[49]



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External links