Saturday, July 13, 2013
Alice (1990 film)
Written and directed by Woody Allen, Alice is the story about an upper-class New York housewife whose life changes after meeting a jazz musician as she thinks about her life as she turns to a mysterious Chinese man for help. Inspired by Federico Fellini’s 1965 film Juliet of the Spirits, the film is a mixture of romance and fantasy where a woman tries to find herself away from the life she’s lived. Starring Mia Farrow, William Hurt, Joe Mantegna, Alec Baldwin, Keye Luke, Judy Davis, Blythe Danner, Cybill Shepherd, Bernadette Peters, and Bob Balaban. Alice is an extraordinary film from Woody Allen.
The film plays into the life of a rich New York City housewife who goes to a mysterious Chinese man (Keye Luke) in Chinatown to get something for her aching back. What happens instead is that this woman named Alice (Mia Farrow) goes into a journey of self-discovery as she thinks about her 16-year marriage to Doug (William Hurt) while falling for a musician named Joe (Joe Mantegna) whom she had dreams about. In taking different amounts of herbs, Alice encounters these revelations about her life while wondering who to be with as she turns to her estranged sister Dorothy (Blythe Danner) for help while becoming driven to do something about her life.
It’s a film that takes this woman who for all of her life has lived a world where it’s very routine where she shops, goes to salons, gossip with various friends, and do all sorts of things as a rich woman. Yet, Alice is also quite prudish and unwilling to take risks where she seems to be content with her life despite the fact that she and Doug don’t spend much time together anymore as he’s always working. It’s only until she starts to have some backaches where she meets the mysterious Dr. Yang as she takes different herbs in her drinks to play into her attraction towards Joe as well as doing things like be invisible and pry into his life and other people’s lives.
The screenplay that Woody Allen creates is full of these revelations that Alice faces not just about herself but also her late mother (Gwen Verdon) and the things she does as well as her marriage that’s definitely lost steam. While she finds some happiness in Joe, it’s not enough as Joe is dealing with being a divorcee with a child to take care of. Though Alice is also a mother, her two kids are often in the care of a nanny as it adds more to her own existential plight as well as what kind of woman she needs to be.
Allen’s direction is quite straightforward in terms of compositions though there are moments of style in the way he brings up this idea of fantasy. Notably as it includes a sequence where Alice meets the ghost of her former lover Ed (Alec Baldwin) who observes her as well as Joe while having a very low opinion on Doug. There’s also some funny moments of Alice being invisible as she talks to a friend on the phone as only the phone is shown while another sequence has Alice and Joe both be invisible through the herbal drink that Alice had been carrying where it’s funny but also would become a key plot point for both characters. There’s also a moment where Alice has to face things about her childhood and her relationship with her estranged sister as it also plays some truths about her mother. All of these revelations where Allen uses medium shots and some close-ups are all to express Alice’s journey into finding herself and meaning in her life. Overall, Allen crafts a very majestic and compelling film about a woman’s personal journey in finding herself.
Cinematographer Carlo Di Palma does excellent work with the film‘s very colorful cinematography from some of the look of the interiors like Alice and Doug‘s home to the more low-key look of the scenes in Chinatown. Editor Susan E. Morse does nice work with the editing as it‘s mostly straightforward where it doesn‘t go for style except in a few rhythmic cuts for some of its comedic moments. Production designer Santo Loquasto, with set decorator Susan Bode and art director Speed Hopkins, does amazing work with the set designs from the look of Alice and Doug’s posh home to the school where her kids and Joe’s daughter go to.
Costume designer Jeffrey Kurland does fantastic work with the costumes from the posh clothes Alice and her friends wear to the more simplistic look of Dr. Yang. Visual effects supervisor Randall Balsmeyer does terrific work with some of the visual effects like the dissolved look of Ed to some of the moments where Alice and Joe become invisible. Sound editor Robert Hein does superb work with the sound to create some effects where dialogue is presented while the characters aren’t talking as well as some of the scenes in the locations. The film’s music soundtrack features a mix of jazz and classical music to play up the sense of adventure and fantasy that is prevalent in the film.
The casting by Juliet Taylor is brilliant for the ensemble that is created where it features some small appearances from Holland Taylor as a friend of Alice’s, June Squibb as Alice’s maid, Gwen Verdon and Patrick O’Neal as Alice’s late parents, filmmaker James Toback as a writing professor Alice briefly goes to for instructions on writing, Elle MacPherson as a model at a clothing store, Bob Balaban as a guest at Dorothy’s Xmas party, and Judy Davis as Joe’s ex-wife Vicki. Other notable small roles include Alec Baldwin as Alice’s deceased lover Ed, Bernadette Peters as a muse who appears through one of Alice’s herbal drinks, and Cybill Shepherd as an old friend of Alice’s who becomes a powerful TV executive who is uninterested in Alice’s ideas.
Keye Luke is amazing as Dr. Yang as a man who gives Alice mysterious herbs to help her as he would guide her into the journey that she must take. William Hurt is terrific in a small though sort of bland role as Alice’s husband Doug as a man who is always working while not really understanding about what his wife does. Blythe Danner is wonderful as Alice’s older sister Dorothy as a woman whom Alice hadn’t seen who becomes aware of Alice’s problems as well as giving her some harsh truths about Alice. Joe Mantegna is great as the musician Joe Ruffalo as a man whom Alice falls for as he is seeking for someone to overcome his life as a divorced man while being mystified by some of Alice’s experience with the herbs. Finally, there’s Mia Farrow in a remarkable performance as the titular character as a woman who learns about her life as well as finding more about herself as Farrow brings a bit of humor and humility to a character that becomes strong as the story progresses.
Alice is a marvelous film from Woody Allen that features a winning leading performance from Mia Farrow. Along with a great supporting cast that includes Joe Mantegna, William Hurt, Blythe Danner, and the late Keye Luke. It’s a film that isn’t just one of Allen’s more entertaining films but also one of his most thought-provoking about individuality and finding a role in life. In the end, Alice is a sensational film from Woody Allen.
Woody Allen Films: What's Up Tiger Lily? - Take the Money & Run - Bananas - Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) - Sleeper - Love and Death - Annie Hall - Interiors - Manhattan - Stardust Memories - A Midsummer's Night Sex Comedy - Zelig - Broadway Danny Rose - The Purple Rose of Cairo - Hannah & Her Sisters - Radio Days - September - Another Woman - New York Stories: Oedipus Wrecks - Crimes & Misdemeanors - Shadows & Fog - Husbands & Wives - Manhattan Murder Mystery - Don’t Drink the Water - Bullets Over Broadway - Mighty Aphrodite - Everyone Says I Love You - Deconstructing Harry - Celebrity - Sweet & Lowdown - Small Time Crooks - The Curse of the Jade Scorpion - Hollywood Ending - Anything Else - Melinda & Melinda - Match Point - Scoop - Cassandra’s Dream - Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Whatever Works - You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger - Midnight in Paris - To Rome with Love - Blue Jasmine - Magic in the Moonlight - Irrational Man - (Cafe Society)
The Auteurs #24: Woody Allen Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3 - Pt. 4
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