On this episode of the Deep Focus podcast, my guest is none other than Alana Haim from the rock group Haim, but more appropriate for this conversation, she is the star of Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film, “Licorice Pizza.” Anderson’s latest film is a nostalgic, shaggy return to his San Fernando Valley roots, but it’s really nothing like “Boogie Nights” or “Magnolia” and actually is more in line with George Lucas’ “American Graffiti”—a hangout movie— as if it were made by Lucas, Hal Ashby, and PTA’s beloved Robert Altman.
In a recent Q&A I attended with PTA, the filmmaker said unapologetically about “Licorice Pizza” and his return to his Valley stomping ground origins, “if nostalgia is a disease, well, I guess I have it.” And that’s to say PTA just doesn’t really care if he’s repeating himself, but he needn’t worry, as again, this one has a much different vibe and a plot that is loose, arguably wandering in a good way, and just marches to the beat of its own idiosyncratic drum.
“Licorice Pizza” may be set in the Valley again, but it is decidedly not as kinetic and keyed-up as PTA’s early films. This is a sweet coming-of-age tale, with many disparate stories told within it. “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.
Alana Haim, the youngest sister of the HAIM group, plays Alana Kane alongside Cooper Hoffman, who plays Gary Valentine (he’s also the son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, people like Sean Penn, Tom Waits, and Bradley Cooper co-star)
“Licorice Pizza” is delightful, and it landed on the top of our Best Films Of 2021 list, and the uber-charming Haim also landed on our list of the Best Performances Of 2021, both pieces worth checking out.
While my chat with Haim was relatively quick, one immediately gets a sense of her infectious charms and energy. She seems like a very good egg, and her reaction to being told that we named “Licorice Pizza,” our #1 film of the year, was pretty priceless and sweet.
I won’t summarize our conversation too much, as you can listen to it below. Still, I suppose the most memorable part is how mysterious and secretive PTA can be even with close friends and collaborators like Haim. He has directed numerous music videos for the band, he knows her family well, her family knows him well (her mom, dad, and fellow Haim band sisters, Este and Danielle, are also in the movie), but still, he was very elusive about the way he “pitched” the film to her (it involves a mostly wordless email with a random Microsoft Word attachment sent in the middle of the night.
Since November, “Licorice Pizza” has been playing in select cities, but it opens everywhere nationwide on Christmas Day. Covid is definitely a legitimate concern, but if you can see the movie on the big screen safely, I encourage you to do that too (sometimes I hit those super early morning screenings when no one is there). Regardless, I hope you enjoy this conversation and get a feel for Haim’s charismatic verve. Listen to the discussion below in our Spotify embed.