Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
After a car accident takes the life of her husband, Alice Hyatt (Burstyn) takes her 11-year old smart-aleck son on a road trip (from New Mexico) that’ll hopefully land them back in Monterey California; where she hopes to continue the singing career she left behind when she got married. Along the way, she takes some odd jobs, meets two very different kinds of men (Keitel & Kristofferson) and tries keeping her wits about her as she finds it difficult balancing a son, a love life and dream long ago forgotten in this very un-Scorsese like movie.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Ellen Burstyn won the Oscar for Best Actress back in ’74 for her role in this film and it’s easy to see why. She goes through an entire spectrum of emotions that ranges from vulnerable and desperate to love-struck and hopeful - all very believably and all under 2 hours. That’s important to note because in very little time, she has to transform herself from a bored housewife to a widowed dreamer who’s been given a second chance at life. Most importantly, she looks the part. She looks like a mother, worn down after years in a loveless marriage, and yet she still manages to convey that sexiness that’s still making heads turn on her little voyage to self-discovery. The acting is as lively and energetic from the rest of the cast as well: you’ll be treated to a Southern Harvey Keitel, a gritty yet charming Kris Kristofferson (who I’m a big fan of as a songwriter and actor), a very tomboyish Jodie Foster (if it weren’t for her character’s name, you’d think she was a boy in this movie) and a flirtatious, foul-mouthed waitress named Flo, played by Diane Ladd (who was also nominated for her role).
If the name ‘Flo’ rings a bell, it’s because this movie spawned the sitcom "Alice" (starring Linda Lavin) a couple of years later with everyone’s favorite angry chef – Mel (Vic Tayback). Yes, Vic is in this movie too, just as great as he was on the show, if a little subdued. And naturally, it wouldn’t be a Scorsese movie without some choice songs thrown in: a couple of my favorites being Elton John’s “Daniel” and Dolly Parton’s amazing “I Will Always Love You.” Both used to perfection in their respective scenes. Burstyn’s rendition of “Where or When” hit the spot as well. This is tiny, slice-of-life film, not overwhelmingly powerful, but still good enough to touch you, in some small way in the end. Oh, I just have the mention the gorgeous dreamlike opening scene too; it’ll stay with you forever. If you thought Scorsese needed either a DeNiro or the subject of crime to make a solid movie, then check out THE LAST WALTZ, THE AGE OF INNOCENCE or ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE and see just how well rounded a filmmaker he really is.
Commentary by Scorsese, Ladd, Burstyn and Kristofferson: The audio track jumps from scene to scene and doesn't go through the entire length of the movie. The four contributors recorded their bits separately as well. Surprisingly, the one I thought would bore me the most, Diane Ladd, turned out to be the most entertaining. Maybe it was her sexy Southern accent and frankness, I don't know, but I got a real kick out of hearing her thoughts about certain scenes, the film itself and the actors she worked with (she's extremely generous and gracious when delivering praise). She was just plain interesting to me, which I found even more odd considering I've never found her daughter (Laura Dern) to be very exciting. The entire commentary track is great and paints a nice picture of what transpired during filming. Scorsese is also fun to listen to, as always…
Making-Of Documentary "Second Chances": This basically consists of Burstyn and Kristofferson recollecting their experiences on the making of the film. It's 19 minutes long and it's just about enough to get a good handle on the history and making of the movie.
If you like life-affirming little dramas, with touches of humor thrown in and fantastic acting, then this is the rental for you this coming weekend. The 2 extras will also give you a good sense of what made this movie ‘be.’ For a Scorsese nut, it’s a buy me!