Saturday, 6 July 2013

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974) - ★★★★

Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: Robert Getchell
Stars: Ellen Burstyn, Alfred Lutter III, Kris Kristofferson, Harvey Keitel, Diane Ladd, Jodie Foster, Valerie Curtin

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore sucks you in right from the start and never lets go. It's the simple story of a simple woman that is going through a rough patch in her life. I admire the fact that it doesn't try to be all artsy or poetic. It's raw, it's real, and it's just so interesting. The performances are breathtaking... Ellen Burstyn is definitely one of the greatest actresses of all time. If someone said to me that this was the pinnacle of her career, I wouldn't disagree. Her character, this story, and the whole movie was just captivating.

Alice (Ellen Burstyn) always dreamed of becoming a singer. She (like so many others) fell in love with a man and followed him, becoming a housewife and mother... giving up on her dream. When he passes away unexpectedly, Alice and her young son Tommy (Alfred Lutter III) are left with little cash and nowhere to go. In order to keep their heads above water, she drives to far off places with Tommy to apply for jobs in bars as a singer. It's a story filled with rejection, abuse, love, and fighting between mother and son. Above all, this movie is filled with hope.

What separates this movie from other 'roadtrip' and 'parent-child bonding' movies is its stunning realism. The chemistry is marvelous between Burstyn and Lutter. They have some really touching and funny moments together. What's more, they have a pretty damaged relationship due to Alice's failures as a provider and role-model. I became invested in this story because of how hard Alice tried to give her son a decent life. As usual, kids don't always see it that way and arguments flare up. Together, they really made this film shine above all others of the same story structure and genre.

Burstyn is a tour de force in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. She continues to stun me! The more I think about her complex and emotional role as Alice, the more I think it's her greatest performance. Even though she made some downright stupid decisions, I still sympathized with her because she was trying to achieve something great. Everything she did, she did in good spirits. When she was frustrated, heart-broken, or mad I felt the emotion right there with her.

Harvey Keitel played a small and haunting role! My goodness was he freaking fantastic! He charmed the pants off of me (not literally) in this movie at first, then did a 360 switch and made me despise his character. He has a warm smile and a lovable personality, but he also plays the best maniacs in movie history. He sticks in my mind when I think of this film. Diane Ladd's performance was divine! She played a mouthy, grotesque, hard-as-nails waitress that Alice had to work with. She was nominated for Supporting Actress for this film, and she thoroughly deserved it.

Alice trying her hardest to find a job.

I can see how this movie would frustrate people to the point of not caring anymore. Personally, I was frustrated to the point where I cared a whole lot. I really wanted to see Alice succeed in her ambitions, and I wanted Tommy to get through the ordeal as a decent young man. The whole story had me wrapped in its realism and powerful story-telling. What I found to be most genius was the way it emphasised that this was but a small chapter in their lives, a blip on their memories. All of this took place in such a small amount of time... yet it seemed so large in scale. Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore is one of Scorsese's most underrated films, and one of the best movies of 1974.

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