Licorice Pizza - SPOILERS!

Started by wilberfan, November 05, 2021, 08:30:50 PM

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jzakko

Quote from: ono on December 30, 2021, 11:38:58 PM
Without anything else to go on, it makes sense that the film spans over a few years more than it doesn't.

Honestly without anything else to go on, it makes more sense that the film takes place over a few months, though I think these longer-timeline theories are interesting w/r/t the historical background.

The whole thing has a summer feel for starters, and it's hard to imagine they are going in and out of different seasons.

There isn't a single time marker except '73, and the film isn't explicitly a biopic and doesn't need to get dates of pinball or Yours, Mine, and Ours right. And if it did, that would mean almost the whole first act of the film is late-sixties, pre-Manson, for it to be around the release of that film. Does that feel right that all that is happening offscreen but the only big current events they mention are the gas crisis, waterbeds, and pinball machines?

Also Gary doesn't look like he is comfortable behind the wheel at all at the end there and I think it's pretty clear he does not have his license.

But the most damning thing to me is that Alana claims to be 25 in the very first scene, and late in the film again with Peters.

Yes

Wasn't Alana clearly lying about her age? In the opening she hesitates before saying 25 and quickly corrects herself by saying 25 to Jon Peters

Drenk

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The timeline in the movie is as abstract as Alana's character; or, well, you could describe her as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl (or Bratty Pixie Dream Girl since it seems to fit more accurately PTA's fantasy) designed to be awkwardly delivered to Gary at the end in what, I hope, will stay the weakest ten minutes of his career.

Alana is between 25 and 28 and Gary is a teenager. Nobody is claiming that Reynolds is 80 years old by the end and Alma 56 despite the fact that Phantom Thread has the same dreamy, narrative flow. And when The Master does a time jump toward the end, Freddie looks like shit, and The Master has clearly used that time to create a school in London, something that follows clearly the narrative: he got arrested for his sketchy business. Since LP is not bothered with characters, time becomes a Big Nothing; we can cope and rationalize the aesthetic by saying it fits the elastic time of youth, but that would be an underwhelming conclusion…

Emily Watson in PDL is as much a fantasy as Alana, but she doesn't fit the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope and the movie is entirely from Barry's PoV. She's often described as an alien, too. It's almost science-fiction. Imagine PDL from the point of view of Watson but filmed in the same style. You've got a movie with a weak character and a style that doesn't fit.

His best female character is Alma, and the character relies heavily on Vicky Krieps (...a general thing with PTA: ambiguities are sometimes black zones filled by the performances) and what Tichenor came up with in the editing room: Alma poisons Woodcock halfway through the movie, she isn't *only¨ lovingly attending her sick lover. Amy Adams is great in The Master, but you can imagine how flat it could be if a lesser actress were playing a Boss Wife. That said, the scene in the bathroom, as it is written, is fantastic. There would always be that, at least.

Alana Haim is correct. But the way she gushes at Sean Penn like a twelve years old makes the Manic Pixie Dream Girl even more apparent. Or her angry fits supposed to be quirky or charming: a lot of energy, but only that...

PTA also writes her as the butt of a lot of jokes in the movie. Like: "Haha, she is silly! Not mature! Haha!", so I don't even blame her: the material is weak. I think the first twelve minutes would work as a great short story ending with the reversal at the end—she becomes suddenly the "kid"—because what's funny is the CONCRETE SITUATION and DYNAMIC between them, and she's also shown as annoyed, amused, self-loathing, reflexive in a short amount of time. The rest of the movie: Jealous, Pissed off, Jealous While Drunk, HAPPY RUNNING, a vehicle for lust (ex: that shot of Alana watching Gary before he kisses her, the way he lovingly frames them touching their legs) and amusement.
Ascension.

jzakko

Quote from: Yes on December 31, 2021, 01:11:06 AM
Wasn't Alana clearly lying about her age? In the opening she hesitates before saying 25 and quickly corrects herself by saying 25 to Jon Peters

If she's lying in both of those scenes, she's most likely the same age in both those scenes, even if that age is 28. If she claims to be 25 at the beginning and the end and both times she's within Gary's earshot, you'd think it takes place within one year, no?


wilberfan

Many of us are probably tired of this debate by now (perhaps only speaking for myself), but, Your Honor, I'd like to submit this into the record in the interest of documenting the discourse at this time and in this place.

Analysis: A Close Reading of 'Licorice Pizza's' Japanese Wife Scenes  |  The Hollywood Reporter
by Rebecca Sun

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Licorice Pizza, the 1970s San Fernando Valley-set coming-of-age comedy from Paul Thomas Anderson, one of today's most respected and versatile auteurs, is already a fixture in this season's awards race, including landing eight Critics Choice nominations, accolades from critics groups and a best film win from the National Board of Review. That makes the movie a prime target for rival campaigns looking to seize on two of its perceived points of scandal: the 10-year age gap between central "couple" Alana (Alana Haim) and Gary (Cooper Hoffman), and the inclusion of a white character who repeatedly breaks into an exaggerated caricature of a Japanese accent.
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The age gap discourse is inevitably baked into the film's central premise, but the latter controversy feels like an unforced error. Two scenes, which make up a sliver of Licorice Pizza's 133-minute runtime, have marred many of its otherwise rave reviews (the film has a 92 percent freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and resulted in the watchdog group Media Action Network for Asian Americans decrying any awards recognition for the movie. The scenes do not appear to be integral to advancing the plot, as MANAA noted, and serve mostly as "color" to flesh out the film's hyperspecific, historically inspired setting — as well as to play into the well-worn trope of deploying casual anti-Asian racism in the name of art.

The scenes in question both involve side character Jerry Frick, the real-life owner of Mikado, the first Japanese restaurant in the San Fernando Valley. Played by John Michael Higgins, Jerry is first introduced with his wife Mioko (Yumi Mizui) in the offices of Gary's mother Anita (Mary Elizabeth Ellis), a publicist working on promotional copy for the restaurant. After Anita reads the copy, Jerry turns to Mioko and asks for her opinion in a jarring, unnatural accent. Mioko responds sternly in Japanese, which is not subtitled.

Later, Jerry appears again when Alana and Gary go to Mikado to ask about placing ads for their waterbed business on the restaurant's tables. Gary greets the woman standing next to Jerry as Mioko, but Jerry responds, "No, no, no, Mioko's gone. This is my new wife, Kimiko." As before, Jerry uses the same accent to ask his wife for her opinion about the business proposition, and Kimiko (Megumi Anjo) responds in un-subtitled Japanese. But this time, Alana asks for a translation, to which Jerry shrugs: "It's hard to tell, I don't speak Japanese."

As tedious and undermining as it is to attempt to explain comedy, it's clear that Jerry's final line of dialogue is intended to be the punchline, the payoff for the vignette sketched by the two scenes. It's slightly less clear who is intended to be the butt of the joke, but there's no doubt that Jerry remains the most buffoonish presence in the room, so he is certainly a candidate. Jerry's wives are presented as disapproving straight men, and it's ambiguous whether or not they are in on the joke.

Yet regardless of whether the audience is laughing with or at Jerry (or, as some viewers have reported, sitting in stunned discomfort), Jerry's accent is identical to the syntax and tone used to mock and demean Japanese, Chinese and other Asian people across the U.S. for the past two centuries. The accent is undeniably grotesque, and its mere presence in a film that takes a rose-colored view of the old days is triggering for some viewers.

Some Licorice Pizza defenders have interpreted the scenes' inclusion as "tell it like it was" social critique, and Anderson told The New York Times that his intention was "to be honest to that time," adding that he has witnessed people speak English to his own Japanese mother-in-law in such a way.

Regardless of whether or not one finds the Mikado scenes offensive, they serve as the latest evidence that the portrayal of anti-Asian expression remains a go-to creative device for American auteurs. Two awards seasons ago, it was Quentin Tarantino's usage of Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) as a foolish foil for his fictional hero Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Tarantino has since continued to double down on his characterization of the real-life Asian American icon, insisting simultaneously that he was deploying narrative license and that Lee was an egomaniac. Also in 2019, Guy Ritchie's gangster comedy The Gentlemen lobbed racist barbs at its Asian antagonists (repeatedly referred to as "Chinamen"), the old-fashioned yellow peril excused as part of Ritchie's signature shock dialogue and true to the movie's criminal lowlife characters.

These three films have all incorporated Asian signifiers to serve different means, but what they have in common is a disinterest in exploring the interiority of those characters themselves as well as a blindness to the real-world context of the audience receiving their stories.

Not much has been written about Jerry Frick's real-life wives. His first, Yoko, sued him for divorce in 1968, a year after he began dating his eventual second wife, Hiroko, who also was married at the time. Jerry and Hiroko were wed in 1971 and separated a decade later, when they would spend the next several years tied up in court disputes over division of property and spousal support.

A much richer vein of material exists in the public domain about Anderson's Japanese mother-in-law, whom he referenced when talking about the scenes with the Times. Kimiko Kasai is a retired jazz singer who began performing in Tokyo clubs at age 16. Signed to Sony Music Japan in 1972, she moved to the United States in 1978 and has recorded with such jazz legends as Herbie Hancock, Gil Evans and Paulinho Da Costa. After 30 years, she stopped performing for the simple reason of needing a life change. "In Japan there is a phrase, owari no bigaku, which means 'beautiful end,'" she said in a 2018 interview. "Quietly, I put a 'full stop' to all my musical activities."

The fascinating lives of the two Mrs. Fricks and Kimiko Kasai — excerpted for a gag in Licorice Pizza — merit narratives of their own, whether or not they're told by Anderson, who as a filmmaker has the prerogative to tell whatever stories resonate with himself. Ultimately, an industry — which includes studio gatekeepers, financiers and the elite critical class — interested in putting its avowed principles of inclusion into practice ought to consider whether it has elevated all possible voices to the level of auteurship, with all the resources and creative freedom such a designation entails.

"When something doesn't resonate, it quickly becomes a tedious endurance test."

ono

Two things: One, given that there is a correlation between the order of events in the film and the order of events in real life (that is, there is no fudging of the order in which things occur) it is less likely that the correlation isn't intentional.

Two, the scene in the truck with Jon Peters is improv.  The instructions were, just hit on her.  So he asks Alana her age, and being new to improv, she answers her real age, and then corrects herself when she catches herself.  She answers her real sign.  She says she has two sisters.  True, and true in the movie by coincidence.  So now then: because this was improv, it's not in the script.  So, the only instance of Alana's age as canon is at the beginning of the film.  We can't attach Alana's age to canon here, but we can attach it to intention after the fact.  That it is vague lends more to PTA being sloppy with the facts.  To what end, I don't know.  This is one of my frustrations with PTA at times.  He leaves a lot of things open to interpretation.  These fuzzy, hazy corners of his picture.  Is it laziness/underwriting or something else?  He doesn't have the same attention to detail as someone like Kubrick.

RudyBlatnoyd

Really struck me a few hours after seeing LP that the previous character of PTA's that Alana most closely resembles is Freddie Quell; she's like a gender-swapped, less conspicuously unstable version of the same personality. They're both these lonely casualties of a wider historical reality unfolding around them and passing them by, searching for something to cling onto in all the most unlikely places. The end of LP rings deliberately hollow, I think; Alana is really left as adrift as Freddie at the end of The Master. She gets back with Gary on the rebound from her disappointment in Wachs and what he represented for her, but it seemed pretty obvious to me that their relationship is likely to break down again soon afterwards.

Still think that people are underselling how sad LP is. For me, at least, that was much more its prevailing register than knockabout comedy. In fact, I do wonder if I saw the same movie as a lot of the reviewers! This is partly why I am baffled as to some of the ongoing criticism of the age gap and Asian racism elements – it seemed to me that the whole film was quite deliberately and insistently hinting at something very dark and fucked up under the surface of all these characters and their moment in time?

Drenk

QuoteThey're both these lonely casualties of a wider historical reality unfolding around them and passing them by[...]

You have to be more specific. One is a traumatized veteran after World War II, the other is...?
Ascension.

RudyBlatnoyd

Quote from: Drenk on December 31, 2021, 10:58:54 AM
QuoteThey're both these lonely casualties of a wider historical reality unfolding around them and passing them by[...]

You have to be more specific. One is a traumatized veteran after World War II, the other is...?

Obviously superficially they're very different, but the personality type is the same: both are adrift and looking for something to give their lives a meaning. For Freddie this becomes the cult that Dodd is building, and with Alana it's a succession of things, all bound up in the character of Gary whom she resentfully looks at as a potential anchor: she tries to share in his enthusiasms – acting and commerce – and then when that doesn't work out she tries to develop her own – politics – but there's that same nagging disillusionment underneath that keeps returning.

It's there in other PTA characters, too: that sense of going after something because you think it will help to complete you, but in the end it's a hollow victory or a disappointment e.g. Plainview. But the particular kind of pinball quality of Alana and Freddie makes them seem quite similar to me.

Drenk

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I see. That works wonderfully for me in The Master because the historical context echoes Freddie's state of mind and his relationship with Dodd is a better romance/friendship/codependency (how similar they are despite acting differently, how they're both yearning for freedom despite one being a prisoner of his own cult). And Alana doing whatever the plot demands of her is a symptom of PTA doing a collage of different episodes: the characters have to be there somehow. Once again: I felt the melancholy in the beginning with that long look she gives to Gary in the restaurant after he says she will never forget him, followed by Jonny's track, but the rest of the movie is light, happy, and triumphant. There's a short moment where she feels self-pity after the truck sequence but its sole purpose is to separate Gary and Alana for them to find each other at the end.

Ascension.

RudyBlatnoyd

Quote from: Drenk on December 31, 2021, 11:16:43 AM
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I see. That works wonderfully for me in The Master because the historical context echoes Freddie's state of mind and his relationship with Dodd is a better romance/friendship/codependency (how similar they are despite acting differently, how they're both yearning for freedom despite one being a prisoner of his own cult). And Alana doing whatever the plot demands of her is a symptom of PTA doing a collage of different episodes: the characters have to be there somehow. Once again: I felt the melancholy in the beginning with that long look she gives to Gary in the restaurant after he says she will never forget him, followed by Jonny's track, but the rest of the movie is light, happy, and triumphant. There's a short moment where she feels self-pity after the truck sequence but its sole purpose is to separate Gary and Alana for them to find each other at the end.


Strongly disagree that the rest of the film is 'light, happy and triumphant'. Alana is repeatedly thwarted in her attempts to form an identity for herself: when she tries to be an actress, she gets hit on and forgotten by the Hollywood actor; when she joins in Gary's waterbed business it ends with her almost killing herself in a reckless stunt with a truck and feeling stupid for hanging out with a bunch of teenagers; and when she tries to get involved in politics she is humiliated when she realises that her boss' ultimate interest in her is that she should serve as a 'beard' to help him in his personal campaign. The movie moves so fast and busily that a lot of this sadness didn't really sink in for me until after it had finished and it had rattled around in my head for a few hours.

Drenk

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The tone of the movie is light, happy, and ultimately triumphant. It's also not concerned with any form of reality. All the sisters living with their parents past their is never treated seriously, never a story. It's just a COVID bubble. When Barry Eagan gets attacked by a bunch of blond brothers, this isn't dangerous. The same goes for the truck: it looks like a videogame speedrun. Yes, the movie mistreats her with men, but the movie ends with her returning to Gary because "men are shits". Everything from the shots, the music, the writing is triumphant. That's a very dubious development. I see nothing organic in Alana's character, what happens to her and what she does.
Ascension.

RudyBlatnoyd

I didn't see the tone of the film as 'happy', to be honest. It's certainly often amusing or outright funny, but I didn't perceive a lot of happiness, more frustration, disappointment etc.

If I had to sum up the movie's theme, I'd say that it's about how almost any prolonged exposure to the 'adult' world is a ritual of disillusionment. It's all about how no one has really got their shit together. That just doesn't strike me as the vibe of a film that is straightforwardly 'happy' or 'triumphant', whatever those things mean.

Also, a small point, but I just accepted that all the daughters would be living with the parents, since the implication is that the parents are quite conservative in a way and that the daughters are as yet unmarried. Didn't have a problem with that.

And the ending seemed laced with irony to me, in the same way that the supposedly happy ending of Phantom Thread was ironic: we all but know that the dysfunctional cycle is going to repeat. Why wouldn't it? What has really changed?

Drenk

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The disillusionment of the adult world is a theme, but it is incarnated with the with men mistreating Alana, a narrative plot in service of the plot leading to a twenty-five/eight years old romantically running toward a teenager and kissing him. That's why I said it is dubious.

I agree that adulthood is a myth. I also believe that "age is an illusion" as a rhetoric tool to get involved with teenager is fucked up.  :yabbse-grin:

I also believe that the ending of Phantom Thread is happy; twisted, but happy. They found a key to the toxicity through toxicity. It's about making peace with the asymmetry.
Ascension.

RudyBlatnoyd

I read the ending differently. The very fact that it is dubious and highly unlikely to work long-term seemed like precisely the point to me i.e. Alana has made another impulsive and misguided decision off the back of her devastating experience with Wachs, which didn't lead to where she thought it was going.

I wonder if expectations have got something to do with some people's reactions to this. It is possibly the fault of the marketing in part, which understandably plays down the PTA-ness of the film i.e. its knottiness. I went in expecting the marketing to be misleading and for this to be another rather melancholy and discombobulating PTA flick like IV and that was largely what I got (with perhaps a little more of a knockabout element).

If I had a criticism, it's that precisely how Gary is able to fund all of these business ventures could've been explored a lot more; it's all left rather vague and improbable. It didn't really bother me, but I'd be prepared to call it a weakness in the writing, I guess partly excused by time shortages.