Alice (1990)

Alice (Woody Allen, 1990)
Blending the telling of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Tale, and Federico Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits, Woody Allen’s Alice starring Mia Farrow is often overlooked compared to his Crimes and Misdemeanors of 1989 and Husbands and Wives of 1992. Speaking of blends, Alice is also a blend of genres, navigating between comedy, fantastic, and drama, the character of Alice Tate (Mia Farrow) is the wife of a wealthy business man (William Hurt) but she isn’t really in love anymore.

She is tired of shopping, getting her nails done, and gossiping all day. One day she meets a man when taking her kids to school. His name is Joe (Joe Mantegna) and he is a jazz saxophonist. However, her catholic guilt stops her from doing anything. Starting from there she consults an Asian doctor who gives her medicine that makes her talk frankly, get her invisible, and even fly with the ghost of an ancient lover (Alec Baldwin).
Of all the aspects of Alice and the films of this period of Woody Allen’s filmography, it is their cinematography, here by Carlo Di Palma, that strikes me the most. Even if the story doesn’t seem to be that fresh or original, the warm lightning and colors of every frame are reminiscent of my childhood and remind me of my mother and my aunts’ wardrobes. It is funny how little I cared about the story, a classic Allen one even if there’s more fantastic elements than his habitual plot, but how beautiful it looks and is.
As the title role, Farrow is again Farrow on the screen : not really memorable either really believable. She is always better when the film is not centered on her character. Just like in Radio Days or Hannah and Her Sisters, her supporting roles are always more memorable. Maybe it’s Allen’s loose directing of actors or the fact the she was his muse at the time and was influenced by her, but I think that it might be why the film was more of a miss than a hit at the time.
My personal appreciation of Allen’s 21st feature film is that I quite enjoyed it at times and was a little bored by the hammering of Allen on the catholic guilt, a thing that Martin Scorsese has mastered thorough his career, and the typical plot. It would be in the middle of my top of all of the Woodman’s films if I were to rank it right away. Definitely not a masterpiece like Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters, or Crimes and Misdemeanors and not as forgettable as Anything Else.

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