Tuesday, December 13, 2011

#484. Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974)

Directed By: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Kris Kristofferson, Alfred Lutter III

Tag line: "A picture for anyone who has ever dreamed of a second chance!"

Trivia:  Barbra Streisand was originally offered the lead role, but turned it down because she thought she was too young at the time

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is an early film from director Martin Scorsese. With this movie, the director found himself far removed from his native New York, yet even in “foreign” territory, he doesn’t miss a beat. 

The recently widowed Alice (Ellen Burstyn, in an Oscar-winning performance) lives in New Mexico with her son, Tommy (Alfred Lutter III). Seeking a fresh start, Alice loads up her car and heads with Tommy to Monterey, California, the town where she grew up. But on the trip westward, the pair become sidetracked in Arizona, where Alice is forced to accept a job as a waitress. Here, she meets and falls in love with David (Kris Kristofferson), a man who may just prevent her from ever reaching that California destination. 

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore has a good deal going for it, including a fine performance from Ellen Burstyn as Alice, who captures the daily struggles of being a single mother while generating a good bit of humor along the way. The real star, however, is Scorsese, who demonstrates, even at this early stage of his career, why he’s considered one of the most talented filmmakers of all-time. A respected film historian, Scorsese's love of movies is evident in the very first scene, where a young Alice (played by Mia Bendixson) is walking home for supper, silhouetted against a backdrop that looks as if it were lifted straight out of Gone With the Wind (actually, I found out later he was paying homage to The Wizard of Oz. Hey, at least I got the year right). Then, suddenly, and without warning, we jump 27 years into the future, the soundtrack pulsating to the energy of Mott the Hoople. In one long shot, the camera descends from on high, flies towards a small house, glides through an open window and settles in front of an adult Alice, hard at work at her sewing machine. Not five minutes has elapsed, and Scorsese's already given us plenty to get excited about. 

Deep in the desert southwest, making a film about a widowed mother and her son, Martin Scorsese's creative cylinders still managed to fire in perfect unison.

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