LICORICE PIZZA is the story of Alana Kane and Gary Valentine growing up, running around and falling in love in the San Fernando Valley, 1973. Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Phantom Thread), Licorice Pizza tracks the treacherous navigation of first love.
Raised in the San Fernando Valley, Alana Kane (played by Alana Haim) and Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) have never met before picture-taking day at Gary’s high school. Alana is no longer a student but is a young woman seeking to find and define herself beyond her uninspiring job as a photographer’s aide. Gary has already established himself as a working actor — and is quick to tell Alana this in an attempt to impress her. She is amused and intrigued by his preternatural confidence and they strike up a heartfelt, if awkward, rapport. Seeking to strengthen this connection with Alana, Gary wangles an opportunity for her to be his chaperone during a New York television appearance; on impulse, she agrees.
The TV appearance does not go exactly as planned and once back in California, each of them questions their future. Over time and as their friendship grows Gary pursues career opportunities outside of acting, and becomes a budding entrepreneur selling waterbeds and opening a pinball arcade; and Alana gives serious consideration to her future (including a foray into acting). On their own or side by side, both Gary and Alana experience a series of epiphanies that are both uproarious and bittersweet: close encounters with a famous actor (portrayed by Sean Penn), a Hollywood producer (Bradley Cooper), and a local politician (Benny Safdie). Both self-aware and at loose ends, Alana and Gary blaze through a time and place that carry for them the thrill of first love, entering adulthood, and the discovery of newfound potential — perhaps, most of all, in each other.