Release Date: December 25, 1990
Starring: Mia Farrow, William Hurt, Joe
Mantegna, Key Luke, Alec
Baldwin, Blythe Danner,
Bernadette Peters, & Cybill
Runtime: Approximately 105 minutes
Distributor: Orion Pictures
Director: Woody Allen
Producer: Robert Greenhut
Writer: Woody Allen
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Orion Pictures Corporation
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New York, NY 10019
Married to a top-wage earner husband and living in a New York City penthouse suite, Alice's ordeal begins with lower back pains. She visits a Chinatown herbalist, who prescribes a series of magic potions for a problem he believes is in her mind and heart, not back. Alice, it turns out, loves her husband, yet is suffering physically because of unfulfilled dreams.
The herbal potions create supernatural occurrences for Alice, which open her eyes to the falseness of her marriage. The first gives her the courage to pick up an attractive saxophone player and have a humorous conversation with him. The second allows her to become invisible, so she can observe without being observed, while a third drums up the ghost of an old boyfriend who guides her into infidelity.
The next concoction summons a Muse1 to aid her fledgling writing career. A final potion will cause any man to fall madly in love with her.
Thus, Alice must decide between the musician and her husband, but has a hard time making that choice since she has based every decision entirely on her feelings, which are totally confused. Alice finds a way out of her dilemma that's purely Woody Allen.
Clearly, there are some problems with this examination of a life by Mr. Allen. For one, feelings are stressed as most important in the decision-making process when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Furthermore, the something that Alice has vaguely sensed is not quite right in her life is found in leaving her husband and shifting from a childlike giving to an adulthood devoted to self-satisfaction.
Alice supposedly finds happiness at film's end by doing her own thing. Again, nothing could be further from the truth, but Mr. Allen isn't really concerned with virtuous living. He even takes quite a few swipes at Catholics and Catholicism.
Some may find Mr. Allen's wit as sharp as ever, but others that the jokes are in poor taste, delivered slowly and lack snap. As for the element of fantasy in the film (occult would be more accurate), it is hard at times to determine what is real and not real, as memories and flashbacks intercut with fantasies and illusions. Perhaps the best thing going for ALICE is the musical score, featuring Dizzy Gillespie and Arty Shaw.
ALICE will probably appeal to Woody's usual holiday gathering, those who don't mind watching the sin of gossip, the encouraging of infidelity, or a Catholic upbringing ridiculed. Surely, moviegoers deserve better than this.
The problems here are self-evident: decisions are based on feelings, and Alice finds herself by doing her own thing. In fact, these adolescent responses would not solve Alice's ennui; however, Mr. Allen isn't concerned with salvation. Even the jokes are in poor taste, delivered slowly without snap. The best thing going for ALICE is the musical score. ALICE will appeal to those who don't mind the sin of gossip, the encouraging of infidelity, or the ridicule of Catholicism. Moviegoers deserve better than this