• Alice

    Released By: Twilight Time
    Released On: December 19, 2017.
    Director: Woody Allen
    Cast: Joe Montegna, Mia Farrow, Alec Baldwin, Blythe Danner, Judy Davis, William Hurt
    Year: 1990
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    Though I will generally acknowledge that I'm not the world's biggest Woody Allen fan by a longshot, I do give the guy a lot of credit for being successful with a style that is unconventional and brilliant at times. True, I'm quicker to acknowledge the genius of his more mainstream films like Manhattan, Annie Hall, and Radio Days, but I can generally find a bit to like in his less popular films as well. I do not, however, enjoy annoying quite so much, and so, it was around the time that Mia Farrow was flying around New York City at night with the ghost of her ex-boyfriend that I lost interest in Allen's 1990 film, Alice, completely.

    Alice Jansen (Mia Farrow) is your stereotypically richer-than-rich Manhattan socialite housewife, spending the majority of her time in her gianter-than-giant apartment that looks like the Royal Suite at the Ritz-Carlton, occasionally taking over from the live-in Nanny to look after her two children. Her husband of sixteen years, Doug (William Hurt) is a big man about town in the corporate world, occasionally showing up at home to drink what can be assumed is expensive scotch, lounging in expensive, tailored suits. It's no wonder that Alice feels the pressures of a life going nowhere, wanting for nothing; art dealers arrive with wicker eel traps costing thousands of dollars with the suggestion that it may be great for placing dried flowers in, and hiring a Swede to walk on her sore back for pain relief is a genuine option available to her; but Alice still thinks fondly of a long-ago past when she was part of a theatre company, with hopes and aspirations for a satisfactory, fun-filled future. Barring that, she also thinks fondly of a world where she follows her vision as a true Catholic to walk in the footsteps of Mother Theresa.

    The chance to break out of her diamond-encrusted shell arrives at her children's school, when she meets fellow parent Joe Rufallo (Joe Montegna), a dark, handsome stranger who happens to be a big fan of her favourite author and plays saxophone in a local jazz combo. Demure Alice is intrigued by a man showing interest in her, but can't follow through on what appears to be a need to flirt and instead scurries off, but relays the story of the encounter to a good friend while complaining about her ever-present back pain. The friend recommends that Alice visit the mysterious Chinatown physician, Dr. Yang (Keye Luke, who would sadly pass the following year) who is well-known among the elite for his powerful combinations of unknown herbs from the Orient. Placing her under hypnosis, Yang deduces that Alice's back pain is a symptom of the pain in her head and heart, and prescribes her herbs for the next time she goes to pick up her children.

    Following the good Doctor's orders, Alice once again encounters Sax-man Joe, but this time is able to commit fully to flirtation and innuendo in an alien, husky voice. The herbs, however, wear off by the next day and the old Alice returns, unable to follow through with a planned meeting with Joe at the Zoo's monkey house. Returning to Dr. Yang yet again, Alice receives even more powerful herbs that will make her, um, invisible, allowing her to follow Joe around the city and witness in secret how strong his relationship with his ex-wife really is. Losing focus on Joe temporarily, Alice decides to re-enter the arts as a writer, approaching an old friend (Cybill Shepherd) who is a big-shot in television. But her friend isn't convinced that Alice has got anything of value, and Doug's insistence that she's not good for much outside of spending money threatens to send Alice back to square one. However, the mysterious appearance of a the ghost of her ex-lover (Alec Baldwin) and a Superman-type venture into the night skies over Manhattan help expose the flaws in her marriage, and push her forward into following her more adventurous aspirations.

    Full of some truly wonderful performances, primarily from Mia Farrow, Alice is nonetheless a mess. It's not clear at all what Allen was trying to get across here; was he going for housewife breaking free of the dullness of a marriage gone wrong by finding an exciting new suitor? Is the suitor the means to the end in showing her real destiny in following her religious convictions? Did we really need a site-gag filled jaunt with Joe and Alice running around New York being invisible? Allen's characters pop in and out of the storyline with no real purpose, and are just as quickly forgotten. Fragments of storylines are left to the side, and at times, Allen's direction is off-putting for lack of a better word, like he's leaning back his chair and clumsily nudging the camera with his foot to cover the story. Farrow, as mentioned, is quite good, and there are no real complaints about any of the actors here, aside from Montegna, who is pretty much the same Montegna you get in every film featuring Montegna. The powerhouse cast, though, is not strong enough to support the flimsy story.

    There are some good things happening in Alice, though, and really, Allen got an Oscar Nomination for the writing, so what the hell do I know; Carlo Di Palma, Allen's later film DOP is back on board, taking advantage of the New York City-scape to great effect, and the score is also wonderfully fitting. But Allen is at his best when he's working with subtle quirk in his dialogue to convey the humour, and that fails here, rendering the film not that funny at all.


    Alice comes to Twilight Time Blu-ray in an AVC-encoded 1.85:1 transfer. For the most part, the film looks very good, with an absence of dirt and debris (one particular scene does look a little worse for wear than others) to be found, and a chunk of the night-time scenes are rendered beautifully, with a great amount of detail. Edge enhancement and other artifacts are non-existent, though I personally found the film to be a little too heavy on the reds in more than a couple of scenes, evident in some of the screencaps below. This didn't make the film any more difficult to interpret, but provided an unwelcome distraction at points.

    An English DTS-HD Master Audio carries the dialogue and wonderful score perfectly, with the soundstage nicely balanced. No anomalies were detected while listening, and of course, Twilight Time provides their usual Isolated Music and Effects Track, for those wanting to give that score a little more of a listen.

    English Subs for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing are also available.

    The Twilight Time Interactive Catalogue, Theatrical Trailer, and Booklet Essay by Julie Kirgo (who liked this more than I did, apparently) are also available.

    The Final Word:

    Not a terrible film, just a messy one that doesn't satisfy. Twilight Time's disc is not without flaws, but still offers a decent if not fairly barebones way of seeing it.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!