Film #37 of 2010 - Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
Directed by Martin Scorsese, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore stars Ellen Burstyn as Alice Hyatt, a former lounge singer whose family life is miserable and stressful due to an abusive husband and a smart alecky adolescent son, Tommy. When her husband suddenly dies in an accident, Alice is scared for their future, but makes a promise to her son that they will go back to where she lived as a child, Monterey, California, and she will resume her singing career. They set off on the road, but due to a lack of funds, Alice needs to find work in order to get them to their destination. At first, she finds a singing job at a cheesy lounge in Arizona, but a relationship with another frighteningly abusive man (played by a really young Harvey Keitel) causes she and Tommy to flee for their lives, landing them in Phoenix with Alice working as a neophyte waitress in a busy diner. Though she isn't looking for love, she begins to fall for David (Kris Kristofferson) which causes her to make the choice of whether she can let him into her busy life or continue to pursue her original dream.
Watching Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore after having seen most of the "iconic" Scorsese films of the late seventies to the present was both refreshing and slightly jarring. Ellen Burstyn had her choice of directors for this picture, and when she interviewed Scorsese, she expressed her concerns that, based on his prior work, he didn't "know how to direct women." Scorsese apparently conceded this fact but said that he would love to learn, and the rest is history. I think that, based on his filmography since, it is safe to say that his comfort zone is having male-centric films, but within most of those films, there is at least one strong female character; Lorraine Bracco in Goodfellas and Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver immediately come to mind.
Scorsese handles the material he was given well in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, but it is important to point out that truthfully, the material was not all that challenging. It's a "chick flick", but it's well done and Burstyn does a great job in her role. There are no mobsters and no iconic shots (though once or twice I caught the signature "sped up close up" Scorsese shot, which actually seemed out of place) but in a character driven film, that isn't necessary. Ultimately, this is a story about a woman who is forced to start over at a time when she is at her most vulnerable, and it's a love story. I enjoyed watching it, but when I finished it just kind of went, "Okay, now I've seen it." There isn't anything wrong with it, but it's also not great or epic cinema. And maybe, based on everything else that Scorsese is now known for, that is ultimately a testimony to his range.
3 out of 5 stars