Alice's Restaurant Reviews

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Super Reviewer
August 8, 2010
Very much of its decade, this sixties' iconoclastic film features the best of the folk era and also re-imagines a true story about the complications of morality in a Vietnam tinged landscape. The movie's premise is based on a true story from the life of lead character and guitarist Arlo Guthrie, who was arrested in 1964 for dumping in a ravine on Thanksgiving when the local dump was closed. His crime made him ineligible for service in Vietnam, which Guthrie found preposterous because the army's atrocities were much worse than his discretion. He wrote an 18-minute long song about the incident which became popular and led to this film being made. That gimmick sustains this in many people's minds as one of the more iconic films of the sixties because it speaks about the revolutionary spirit of that time, the atrocities of a war that would rage for another four years, and the free love attitudes of many young people at this time. Though many elements of the story were true, a large bit was fictionalized in order to stretch it to a longer runtime. Parts of this are entertaining, fluid, and show a lot about what made the sixties so important. Other times it becomes painfully clear that no one can act in this film, especially Arlo Guthrie. Each of these characters is painfully bland and the performances are very wooden. This film also can't decide whether it is a comedy or a dramatic biopic with leanings towards political revolution. This film is simply fueled by the paranoia and hatred from the war, and that last refrain in the song, and in this film, was very powerful and thought provoking. The problem is that the film is bogged down in extra bits that try to make it funny and strange, trying to build off the views of communes, flower power, and other sixties' staples when it accomplishes so much without it.
Super Reviewer
September 5, 2010
Yes it's an off beat off key kind of movie, but that's not always good. I thought this movie was pretty boring for the most part. Maybe that's because I'm not familiar with Guthrie's work outside of the film, but I think the movie could have been more cohesive and entertaining. Overall, it's okay, though.
Super Reviewer
January 18, 2009
One of those 'generational anthems' that's more endearing because it's a tad off key. Arlo Guthrie's semi-autobiographical homage to his father and his friends.
Super Reviewer
½ May 11, 2008
Arlo does well, playing an observer, almost pure of heart; he deals with his own mortality in his father's death from Huntington's; a hippie idyll wise about the delicate equilibrium that keeps their way of life together
Super Reviewer
March 18, 2008
Compare a film like Hair with this one, a tribute to and expansion on Arlo Guthrie's sometime anthem for America in the 1960s. For those who refer to Guthrie being portrayed as a "draft dodger," I think a second look might prove worthwhile. In fact, the heart of irony in this story -- and there is irony around every corner -- is that Guthrie, through a series of bizarre and somewhat amusing happenings, finds himself in a position where the draft actually dodges him. Because he is a litterbug who is caught, because he has appeared in court due to his littering, and because he is convicted of littering, Arlo is deemed unfit for military service. To say that this film captures and celebrates the spirit of the 60s is to do it a gross injustice in a way. Irony rears its head throughout this movie, pointing to the devastation wrought by drugs upon the addicted and how "free" love actually can damage relationships. All in all, this is hardly a free wheeling laugh- or love-fest, and neither is it a wholeheartedly approving celebration of those freedoms of individuality, self-expression, and guiltless indulgence "enjoyed" by the "hippie" generation. This film, coming out in 1969, is a very serious, although non-judgmental, end-of-an-era look backwards at the flower powered 60s. Perhaps the most heavily participatory and indulgent characters, Alice and Ray, played beautifully by Pat Quinn and James Broderick (Matthew's dad), are also the most victimized. While the freedom of their lifestyle does not kill them, as it does Shelly, the hardcore drug-addicted motorcyclist, it certainly does nothing to bring them closer together in their marriage. There is a yearning in both to move their marriage to a higher plane, but from the beginning to the end, it is, ironically, their inability to make their love transcend the circumstances of their lives and lifestyles that gives the whole movie its underlying tragic tone. This is well worth the watch. If only they could all, as the song says, get anything they wanted -- except Alice. This is a major stumbling block for husband Ray, who is ironically, in the end, one of those who cannot and does not really ever "get" her.
Super Reviewer
July 7, 2007
I didn't like it. I never felt any affinity for the characters nor did the story grab me. I suspect I'm not getting something.
Super Reviewer
½ April 19, 2009
This movie drags at the beginning and the end, but it is very entertaing in the middle. It's a very unorthodox film based on Arlo Guthrie's 18 minute song of the same name. Arlo Guthrie does a good job, but at times his lack of acting skills does affect the film. It's about a bunch of hippies and the movie is defiantly a product of it's time. It has some great characters and the film ends with a amazing tracking shot that is very powerful. A interesting film that's a little too long.
½ May 28, 2008
back in the age of dinosaurs(the time of woodstock)i snuck my underage butt into our local theater(gone for many years)to see this, my first r rated movie.i think i really liked this movie(it could have been my 13 year old hormones raging). anyho im gonna try to find it andsee if was any good. the lead was arlo guthrie who also wrote the 20 min protest song that inspired the movie. he's still touring now. if ya can find it give it a whirl. its zany and yet very serious about what was going on in our nation in 1969. wow, went on long for me.
Super Reviewer
½ June 4, 2007
Not for all tastes. I found parts of it funny and parts of it deep. Other parts were simply a bit dull.
½ May 26, 2007
Fun Movie with alot of Humor & Great Music !
a Period piece & questioning those Governing...a Must See
½ November 17, 2006
i love how this doesnt really have a story line. the conflict at the beginning is totally different from the conflict at the end. its so real, really enjoyable. and the music is wonderful.
½ April 23, 2015
Funny, poignant and ultimately devastating glimpse into the tail end of the hippie era. It is hard to forget this lost gem of a film.
November 27, 2014
A great Thanksgiving day tradition! I still love this movie.
½ March 20, 2014
Arlo Guthrie said it best: "I only made one movie...because I saw it."
½ December 4, 2013
An uneven film, but uneven in very interesting ways. Everything that would probably draw your average viewer to the film doesn't really work. The staging of the story told in the song is awkward and perfunctory, as if it's not the song itself that really drew Penn to this project. Guthrie tries, but he's not an actor by any stretch. What works marvelously is the story at the periphery, the story of Alice and Ray. While Penn sympathizes with outsiders, and is genuinely fond of Arlo and his hippie friends, he's not naive enough to take it all at face value. He sees that underneath the utopian claims there is quite often an impulse to create excuses not to take on any responsibilities at all, and this really manifests in Ray's character and his relationship with Alice. A great film for capturing this era and not being afraid to portray some of the darkness.
May 29, 2013
Love this show - Yes it is quirky and wanders a bit, but to me this is one of the top 4 movies you need to see to truly understand the 60's
December 12, 2012
But You Can't Have Alice

Because my mother is older than the mothers of my friends, the first I ever knew of Arlo Guthrie was when I was in high school, and my biology class watched a special about genetic testing, which was a new concept at the time. I did know, at least in theory, about his father, Woody (here played by Joseph Boley). What was so worrying to Arlo in this special was that his father had died of Huntington's Disease, which is genetic. Arlo was having to decide whether he wanted to be tested or not, whether it was better to know for sure or to live life until he came down with the disease without the certainty that he would. Given that this was about twenty years ago, I don't now remember which he chose. However, he's still alive, so I tend to assume that he doesn't have it. He must be glad; it sounds like a pretty awful way to go.

It was 1965. Arlo (playing himself) first hoped to evade the draft by getting a college deferral. However, that doesn't go too well for him, and he heads back east, in part to see his dying father. Two of his friends, Ray (James Broderick) and Alice (Patricia Quinn) Brock, have bought a deconsecrated church in a small town in Massachusetts. Alice also starts a small restaurant. Arlo wanders about, playing his guitar at various coffee houses and so forth. He often ends up back at the church, and sometimes back at his father's deathbed. Alice and Ray take in Shelly (Michael McClanathan), a recovering heroin addict who is in love with Alice. One day, Ray invites enormous crowds of people to the church for a Thanksgiving dinner, to be cooked by Alice. Arlo and his friend, Roger Crowther (Geoff Outlaw), in an attempt to be helpful, gather up about a half-ton of garbage from in and around the church and pile it into Arlo's VW to take it to the town dump. Turns out the town dump is closed for Thanksgiving. The pair dump their trash by the side of the road, setting off the sequence of events that got the movie made.

To be honest, I've never actually heard the song. I mean, there are bits of it in the movie, but I don't think there's enough to add up to the eighteen-odd minutes of the original version, much less the up to forty-five minutes it can take in live performance. Mom was into Peter, Paul & Mary, and I recognized Pete Seeger (who, oddly, is one of three people to get billing on Netflix) from the episode of [i]Reading Rainbow[/i] he did. But Arlo Guthrie is too young to be Mom's kind of music and too old to be mine. He's only three years younger than she is, but most of the music Mom listens to is sung by people older than she is. I think that's generally the case, really; your formative music is playing when you're a kid, and when Mom was a kid, Arlo Guthrie was still just Woody's boy and no one of real consequence in his own right.

Possibly one of the things I like best about this movie is that it acknowledges some of the problems with the kind of life the characters lead. Even if Ray can't recognize it, he's hurting Alice terribly quite a lot of the time. Shelly is extremely jealous, and things aren't just going to be okay there. While there is a certain pleasure taken in the sexual freedoms the characters share, there is also awareness that it isn't all for the best. Early in the movie, Arlo meets a girl who wants to sleep with him in case he becomes famous, because that will make her somebody, too. She's fourteen and has a runny nose, but she's convinced herself that she's an adult. It's one thing to be an adult choosing a kind of bohemian lifestyle, but it's another to be exploited or an addict. There is actually a kind of sorrow here, even as we celebrate Arlo's own freedom.

This definitely makes my list of, "Okay, I don't need to watch that again." It's not a bad movie, and it has a certain charm. However, I was more interested in Alice than Arlo, and I feel that she got shortchanged. The real Alice must not have thought so, given that she's an extra in the movie in several places--including her own wedding, apparently--but I'm angry at how most of the characters seem to treat her. It's not that Roy also wants to sleep with barely legal girls; if Alice is okay with an open relationship, that's fine. Worse, to me, is that Roy takes her for granted. Her restaurant is probably the thing that's paying their bills, but he thinks she can just take off whenever she wants to and let it run itself. And on her wedding day, he assures everyone that Alice will be happy to cook them up something to eat. If I were Alice, I'd be furious about that--and it looks, in the movie, as though she is. No one seems to notice.
½ July 13, 2012
Simm Landres did NOT play Jacob/Jake. The actor was Wilfred "Jed" West of Pittsfield, MA.
September 17, 2011
The quirkiest, craziest, coolest film of its era.
½ March 13, 2011
Boring, bad acting and highly overrated! There are SO many movies better that depict the era of hippies and an anti-war, anti-Establishment mindset!
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