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Although Ellen Burstyn's performance was excellent, overall the movie came off a bit boring. I watched this because the sitcom Alice is based off the movie. If you're looking for true comedy better stick with the tv show.
An interesting voyage of self-discovery as a widow learns to live without the wings of protection she has always relied on, even if they were abusive wings, and make her own life. Well, her life and that of her difficult 12 year old. Martin Scorcese is wit enough to keep the tale from lapsing into Hallmark cheery or maudlin. And the soundtrack here is as important as the script insofar as telling the story goes. The actors are all strong. Good stuff.
I love this movie.
The story of a single mother, played by Ellen Burstyn in an Academy Award-winning role, and her realistically frustrating son traveling across the United States after the death of her husband. She is on a quest to become a singer and move to Monterey but to earn enough money to afford this venture she takes a job as a waitress in Tucson where she meets a handsome rancher, Kris Kristofferson, and her son begins to bond with Audrey, a young Jodie Foster.
I think the reason that I rank this film so highly is because it concerns the story of a woman who is facing relatable issues and who has obvious flaws but gets her Prince Charming in the end. This traditional fairytale with splashes of outsized characters like Alice's fellow waitress Flo, Diane Ladd, and a real sense of place is the type of story that appeals to me, a teenage girl. I understand that it is not his best technically made film and that it has not had the influence of his other films but the performances are some of the best I have seen given in his films and the relationship dynamics feel realistic and touching in a way that many of his gangster films don't. On most people's lists this would probably appear at 11 or 12 but to me it is one of his most engaging films and it really makes you love spending time with these characters.
The cinematography is gorgeous as we see Alice traveling down unfrequented roads in the middle of the desert, common in road trip films of this type, but we don't focus on the sky or the wheels of the car as they fly across the asphalt instead we focus on the action occurring in the car with occasional cuts to the exterior. These choices to go against the grain of what would normally appear in this type of film differentiate it from your average road trip film and elevate it to the status of a great film. Within the diner where Alice works we also see scenes that hum with an energy and have an excitement to them that is unique, it's almost as though Scorsese is bringing some of the style that he applied to the wheeling and dealing seen in Boxcar Bertha (1972) is now being used to spice up what could be a mundane and boring section of the film. This refusal to stick to convention allows this film to stick out from the rest of the pack and create a world that feels real and interesting.
The performances! Oh, the performances! I could rave about them for hours but everyone in this film is working at the height of the powers. The fact that Ellen Burstyn essentially got this film made as it was her who sought Scorsese out with Robert Getchell's screenplay just makes you appreciate her complete inhabitation of her character even more. The scenes in which she interacts with her son feel so whimsical as we see her coddling him and their emotions ranging from anger and fear to simple joy, it is Burstyn who creates the authenticity present in these scenes and throughout the film and every twitch of her thin little eyes provokes a strong emotional response from the audience. Ladd is simply delightful as the sassy, fast-talking waitress who befriends Alice and her comedic and dramatic talents really get to shine when she and Alice discuss their colorful lives in a much talked about sunbathing scene. Kris Kristofferson is a great romantic lead, handsome and believably sweet enough to charm the lovely Alice but he shows his dramatic chops too as he loses his patience with Alice's bratty son and he and his girlfriend have their first real fight. Alfred Lutter perfectly captures a young man who can be both a wonderful son but also just a bratty kid, adding another great dimension to the film and Jodie Foster's talent is clear even at this very early stage in her career.
This is a film that I would recommend in particular to female audiences as a film that along with The Age of Innocence (1993) focuses on female protagonists chasing love and their dreams whilst being kept down by society. The film is generally just a wonderful viewing experience and I would recommend it to all audiences because Alice's story is so easy to enjoy. I think that this film is under-appreciated and it deserves to be ranked among his best. I placed it at number two in my ranking, most critics would place Taxi Driver (1976) or Raging Bull (1980) there, I would respectfully disagree because I was engrossed in this film unlike his more 'respected' pictures.
Fairly boring and endless. Where is the plot? Why would anyone consider this to a cohesive "film"? Poorly done.
Solid performance from Ellen Burstyn among other unique characters.
- Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore but she's almost home -
"Mom, where are we going now?"
I'd ask meekly, sitting in the passenger seat. On the surface I was a good little boy because my mother had put the fear of God in me to behave, but on the inside I was hurling obscenities like the girl in The Exorcist with a side of Tourette's.
"Home James, home."
Watching Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore for the first time was familiar. I was Tommy, Alice's son, on a long car ride but I'd been well trained to keep my mouth shut. Tommy on the other hand is loud and annoying.
The other main difference was that I was always going home, eventually, even if the ride felt like an eternity. Alice and Tommy were leaving New Mexico, headed to Monterey, California.
I love everything about Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. On the surface, the movie is about a former singer whose husband is killed in a car accident which motivates her to sell up and move back to her childhood hometown of Monterey. Why Monterey? To sing.
As the movie unfolds, we discover that this story is truly a character piece. It's about a woman who is a dreamer, a lover, a fighter, a mother, an optimist, a waitress, a charmer, a manipulator, a girlfriend, a wife, a mistress and a widower. Alice is a little delusional and at her very best, hopeful.
With funds dwindling, Alice and her son Tommy are forced to take up temporary residence in Phoenix, Arizona where Alice finds a job at a seedy bar as a lounge singer. She falls for the wrong man and suddenly finds herself in the middle of an abusive affair. Back on the road, Tommy and Alice stop in Tucson where Alice finds a job waitressing. It's not long before she meets David (Kris Kristofferson, Blade, The Maple Leaf), a farmer who she finds is a good influence on the wise-cracking Tommy.
Alice is played by the super human that is Ellen Burstyn (Interstellar, The Exorcist). Burstyn couldn't be more elegant if she tried, and yet she has a girl next door appeal.
Burstyn won an Academy Award for her performance. She says of the movie and the era,
" . . . the idea that a woman could be a person in her own right... this idea that we were primary in our own lives, to ourselves, was astonishing... I felt that it was the right story to explore a woman's point of view. [Until then] all of the women's parts were the wife, the mother or the whore... the women were the assistant".
Before the film was made, Burstyn was looking for a role that would allow her to explore a fresh persona on screen. Her agents sent her the script for Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore and she began searching for a director. When she met Martin Scorsese she said,
"I saw your film Mean Streets and I admire it very much but there really aren't any women in it and this is a film I'd like told from a woman's point of view. From your film I can't tell what you know about women. What do you know about women?' And Marty said 'Nothing but I'd like to learn'. I said this is a wise man. I like this guy." Burstyn's full interview on the making of the movie is absolutely worth watching.
I find comfort in Alice. She has a good humor in everything - sad, angry, happy, or indifferent. She has a touch of the melodramatic and the "woe is me". But she also laughs at herself for going total soap opera on it. In the midst of her emotional breakdowns, she realizes how ridiculous she's being. This couldn't be any better expressed than in the trailer which is also a throwback to cinema in the 1970s. Honestly, watch it.
Simply put, Alice is figuring it out. That good ol' "it." She's set free when her husband dies to be what she always wanted to be. She thinks that maybe she can be a singer again and play the piano. She takes a serving job that she hates and finds that she loves it. She falls into relationships with various men. Freedom is simply a possibility. That's all Alice ever wanted.
She represented women of the time who were questioning women's liberation. She isn't sure of her place in her personal freedom, but she knows that it's something worth searching for.
I haven't figured "it" out yet myself. I'm still trying everything, while knowing nothing. My Twitter location used to say "Almost Home." Home is settling. I can be "on my way" into the endless and infinite but arriving home is so concrete. Alice is looking for that home. That "it". And so am I.
This review was first published on Narrative Muse, http://www.narrativemuse.co/movies/alice-doesnt-live-here-anymore, and was written Ernest Green. Narrative Muse curates the best books and movies by and about women and non-binary folk on our website http://narrativemuse.co and our social media channels.
this is an 'amazing' but often forgotten film "my personal opinion it is absolutely one of scorsese's very best earlier films!!
'alice doesn't live here anymore' is a classic and if you love 70s films and have
not yet seen it..you definitely should!! you absolutely will NOT be disappointed!!
It's not that I didn't like this movie, no. Actually this movie has a lot of excellent features among which Ellen Burstyn's winning performance, however I can't call it the salient performance among her other equally if not better roles, and mobile handheld cinematography. It's just I can't get rid of the feeling that Scorsese wanted to be in trend and indulge the feminist movement of the time.
Doesn't hold up over the years. Dissapointingly dull
What makes this movie so charming is how grounded and human it is. A loving portrait of a single mother trying all at once to conform to societal standards, provide a stable home for her son and yet strive to live her dreams. The dialogue is so natural and yet it's surpassing to see in a movie because you almost never see mothers on film portrayed as not only multi-dimensional but flat out witty. I also loved how her love interests were also portrayed with dimension, considering this is pretty much the generic formula for a romantic comedy its interesting to see that even the 'dreamboat' is portrayed as flawed. Great music, great little film.