When housewife Alice is suddenly widowed and left with no money and no job to support herself and her son, she sets off across the country to find a new life. — Genre: Feature Film-Drama — Rating: UN — Release Date: 17-AUG-20... more »04
Christine A. (WriteReviseEdit) from ROCHESTER, NY Reviewed on 1/28/2013...
What I love about this film (esp. for someone like me, a Gen Xer too young to have seen it originally but who watched the TV version and remembers hearing bits and pieces about the film) is its unexpected quirkiness. There are some laugh-out-loud moments and goofy scenes, but that's not to say they're contrived or that the film isn't serious.
Add in Scorsese's smart, cinematic approach and fantastic performances by Ellen Burstyn, Kris Kristofferson, Alfred Lutter III (the actor who originally played Alice's kid, Tommy), Vic Tabec (sp?), Diane Ladd, Harvey Kietel, a young Jodie Foster and others and this is too good to pass up. In fact, for me, the cast turns it into something like David Lynch's "Blue Velvet" for a late '60s/early '70s audience.
This version includes interviews with Burstyn and Kristofferson; they truly add to the film's interest and reveal how the film was conceived, how Scorsese was brought into the mix and what each of the actors experienced in their own lives (at the same time) which helped them develop their characters in ways which felt true to life.
If you're interested in '70s cinema, you have to see "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" at least once.
3 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
S A A. (Learned2Heal) Reviewed on 10/13/2008...
A classic. Just look at the awards. Speaks for itself. My most memorable character in this is Harvey Keitel as the boyishly charming boyfriend who turns out to have a hair-trigger violent temper, as well as other unexpected surprises in store for all. He should have had some nominations and awards too.
A must-see, must-own movie. Right up there with the likes of "The Goodbye Girl" and "Five Easy Pieces"
Adam Dukovich | 09/17/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is a scene in the film Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore which sums up the entire film. It is the scene in which Alice (Ellen Burstyn), newly-widowed and desperate to get a job, convinces a bar owner to see her perform across the street (the owner doesn't even have a piano in his bar). Reluctantly, he comes, and Alice sings the old Sinatra ballad, "When Your Lover Has Gone." It is a testament to Burstyn's acting that this scene is so hauntingly beautiful, and one senses a personal connection that she has with this song, it almost sounds as if it were written just for her. And the emotions that come through in this scene--pain, loss, but also a great deal of hope--are essentially the film in spades.
It is almost passe to mourn the passing of the cinema of the 1970s, but this is exactly the sort of movie that was made then but isn't now. It is a penetrating, intensely personal but unceasingly honest portrait of a single mother's struggle to survive. Even though several decades have passed, the story remains timely because it is ultimately the story of humanity, and will have resonance for anyone who has had to leave the familiar and try to make it on their own. Some might dismiss it as an extended metaphor for feminism (which it is) but it is also much more than that--it cuts far deeper, but it is ultimately a very humanistic film.
I can't stop singing this movie's praises. It inspires without being "inspirational". It is not an exultation of the human spirit, but rather the embodiment of it. It never sounds a hollow, false, or obvious note, but rather sticks with utter realism throughout, and as a result is immensely satisfying. I would highly recommend the movie to anyone who appreciates a good drama that doesn't unfold along the expected path."
A powerful drama and an absolute acting marathon
Dave | United States | 12/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" tells the story of a woman who attempts to forge her own path following her husband's sudden death. The general concept of a woman having her own career and not just being a housewife certainly isn't as radical today as it was when this first came out in 1974, but "Alice..." nevertheless remains a powerful drama thanks to thoroughly terrific performances, and to that trademark Scorsese grittiness.
You can tell that while filming this movie, Ellen Burstyn really WAS Alice Hyatt--her performance is brilliant and flawlessly convincing. Alice's husband Donald (Billy "Green" Bush) dies early in the film in a traffic accident, and it becomes apparent that Alice relied on his financial support while not really being in love him. As we see in the dreamlike opening scene, Alice had aspired to be a singer as a child, a dream that she let fall by the wayside in favor of a typical role as a housewife. With her husband out of the picture, Alice has an 'everything-must-go' type garage sale, sells the house, and hits the road, leaving Socorro, New Mexico with her often annoying, yet sharp 11-year-old son Tommy (Alfred Lutter).
When in Phoenix, a sympathetic bar owner is impressed enough by Alice's audition to hire her to play piano and sing, leading to her meeting of Ben Eberhardt, a character brilliantly portrayed by Harvey Keitel. Ben displays a certain laidback charm, and Alice, who deep down does want to have a man around, falls for him, only to discover that he's already married and prone to fits of violence. Keitel is absolutely devastating in the unforgettable "break in" scene that occurs at the motel Alice and Tommy are staying at, a scene which prompts Alice to get out of town immediately.
Their next stop is Tucson, where Alice despairingly settles for a waitressing job. At the restaurant begins her initially rocky relationship with fellow waitress Flo (Diane Ladd). She also meets at the restaurant the charming, divorced farmer David, played by Kris Kristofferson in a natural, engaging performance. Despite her wariness, Alice does fall in love with David, but the relationship isn't exactly smooth sailing, and it leads Alice into a painful realization about her own son. Meanwhile, Tommy is hanging out with his new friend, the mischievous Audrey, played astonishingly by an 11 or 12 year old Jodie Foster.
Ultimately, we do get a full-blown happy-ending, and that's okay, because it's touchingly done, and the path that leads to that ending is such a rewarding one. "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" is a film no serious viewer should miss.
As usual for a Martin Scorsese direction, this DVD release of "Alice..." is very, very well done, featuring an absolutely superb widescreen transfer of the film. Additionally, there's an excellent, informative documentary featuring interview segments with Burstyn and Kristofferson; and there's also insightful and unfailingly entertaining commentary from the often motor-mouthed Scorsese."
A real life "over the rainbow" search for meaning.
Steven Sprague | Newport Beach, CA | 01/27/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A dream-like sequence begins this film with Alice, looking very much like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, fantasizing about becoming a singer in Monterey. This whimsical, nostalgic scene is abruptly ended when Alice exclaims, "If they don't like it they can blow it out their ass!" Suddenly the muted, highly stylized images of Oz become starkly realistic and we are no longer in dreamland! It's the early 70's and Alice, 27 years removed from her Dorothy period, is middle aged with a smartass difficult boy, and a not so smart husband she can't seem to please and who makes no attempt whatsoever to please her. Her dream is now somewhere over the rainbow until fate steps in, removing her husband and freeing Alice from drudgery. Now what? Broke, no job, no one to lean on and yet having a child that needs support, Alice sets out on the road with her dream as the ultimate destination. Soon Alice will discover that real life has a way of lowering expectations, and Martin Scorsese's film is a slice of real life. The struggle and uncertainty, especially for a woman in a man's world, can be daunting, but Alice is nothing if not determined. This film works due to the genuineness of the characters, the outstanding performance of Ellen Burstyn, and because it glorifies something everyone can strive for: small victories. Sometimes less is more."
Simply brilliant; beautifully acted, written, and realized
C. Heinrich | Oyster Bay, NY USA | 03/27/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this movie when I was very young (at least 16 years ago). To me it was just a comedy film that launched "Alice" (which was one of my favorite shows at the time). I now saw it after all these years and was amazed by all that I saw this time around. This is one of the best-acted films I've ever seen. Nothing more needs to be said about Ellen Burstyn here other than she still remains in my mind as one of the luminary, top-drawer actresses in American cinema these past 30+ years. She is flawless here; even breathtaking! And the performance by Alfred Lutter as her son Tommy was one of the finest performances I've seen by a teen/pre-teen. And of course there's Diane Ladd as the infamous Flo, who revels (and excels) in a small meaty role that usually wins Best Supporting Actress Oscars (she unfortunately lost). And Jodie Foster (as butch as can be) is a riot. And Kris Kristofferson gets his part just right, as do Harvey Keitel and the late Vic Tayback as the overbearing but lovable Mel. I don't know if the perfect acting in this film is a tribute to the actors or to Martin Scorsese (or both). But this film shows that Martin Scorsese is truly a monumental talent. High praise also goes to Robert Getchell for a screenplay that is as hilarious as it is moving. The purity and spirit of this film is obvious and very affecting. I think this is one of the great films of the 1970s. Be sure to put it on your list if you're a student of cinema. I think it is a landmark film in the human comedy/drama genre."
The end of the fairytale world over the rainbow...
John Grabowski | USA | 12/11/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The opening of Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore must have been daring for 1974: it's a Wizard of Oz parody, a depiction of Dorothy's fairytale world of Kansas, but definitely without the sweet dialogue we're accustomed to hearing from that film. In two short minutes, we're told that modern times ("modern times" being the early-mid 1970s) are quite different from the world into which Alice Hyatt was born. You've come a long way, baby.
I was struck by how dated this film is in some ways. But of course what else could be expected. This was the beginning of the women's movement, and in the film Alice, played brilliantly by Ellen Burstyn, finds herself widowed, alone with a 12-year-old kid, and without any visible means of support. And women didn't necessarily have all the options then that they have now.
This could have been played as a maudlin or preachy piece, but what makes Alice such a joy is that the film never loses its sense of humor, because Hyatt never loses her sense of humor about life as she goes about talking to her child in funny voices and listening to his interminable unfunny jokes. (At least, they're not funny if you're older than 12.) At the same time, we always manage to appreciate her situation--the film also doesn't go for easy laughs. The sequence where she decides she has to get a job as a singer, and goes from dive to dive until one kind-hearted owner takes pity on her, is heart-breakingly real. Again, Scorsese could have gone the easy route and played the guy as a letch who would only agree to give her the jog if she slept with him, but he avoids the obvious, thank heavens, and instead we get a study of human nature instead of a feminist cliche.
I did have some problems with this film, mostly of the narrative kind. The fights with Kris Kristofferson's character seem a bit contrived. In the end we don't really sense if Alice will be any happier. Maybe Kristofferson will be a jerk towards her. She's still no to her dream as a singer, and a dream is what it is as best, because it's obvious she doesn't have the talent to make it big, or even make it period. (Even a mediocre version of "Where or When" can be moving, however.)
But although the finish isn't perfect, the journey sure is interesting. Alice is a survivor. She's not booksmart, but she's streetsmart. She's not sexy, but she is attractive. She's not vulnerable, but she's not a cold and aloof character either.
What makes most of the film work is the miraculous performance by Ellen Burstyn. She got an Oscar for this, and she deserved it. Also outstanding is Alfred Lutter as 12-year-old Donald Hyatt. He had almost no prior screen experience, but you'd never know it. Billy Green Bush is completely convincing as the domineering husband who gets KOed in a truck accident. Kristofferson is standard-issue Kristofferson--good enough, but not particularly memorable. Scorsese sprinkles his special restless energy over the whole trhing to make it play just right. Few movies have such honest, unsentimentalized visions of everyday folks in everyday places. My only problem is with some of the diner scenes, which were played a little too over-the-top. If Scorsese was trying for comedy it wasn't funny. If he was trying for heightened drama it wasn't convincing. Those scenes seemed to go against the grain of the rest of the movie's naturalistic style. Also, those who grew up on the TV sitcom Alice may be surprised how little the diner--and the characters of Mel, Flo and Vera--figure in the film.
As usual, Warner Bros. does an excellent job with the DVD. (They're Criterion's only serious competition when it comes to reissues.) The print looks so good you'd think this was shot yesterday--I barely noticed a spec of dirt on this 32-year-old film. The disc features the theatrical trailer and an interesting retrospective with Kristofferson and Burstyn, but no one else. Their reminiscences are interesting and fun, however. I'm really not sure, 30 years later, if this is a "great" film. However, it's better than anything Scorsese has done since 1990. "