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Manhattan housewife Alice Tate seems to have it all but for Alice, there's still something missing. Alice begins a remarkable journey where she comes face to face with her real needs, her desires, her limits and her gifts.
Critics greeted Woody Allen's 1990 opus Alice with sighs of resignation. Here was yet another of Allen's bemused heroines-at-a-crossroads/crisis, falling prey to all kinds of temptation and fantasy and emerging at the other end a more complete, fulfilled or at least self-aware human being. But, though it's a minor work by his highest standards, it has weathered rather well. This is a softer exploration of territory Allen had previously covered rather more intensely and seriously in Another Woman (1988). It's often very funny and ultimately affirms one of Allen's most persistent themes: however confused you think you are, the answer probably lies somewhere inside you rather than in anybody else.
As Alice, Mia Farrow gives one of her most versatile and unmannered performances, revealing a real gift for comedy. However bitter the breakdown of her long personal relationship with Allen, there is no doubt that he took her to new professional heights in their cinematic collaborations. At the start, Alice is little more than a well-heeled housewife and mother, a lady who lunches with bitchy friends. Her dissatisfaction with her marriage (to patronising rich guy William Hurt) leads her into the path of Chinese herbalist Dr Yang, whose potions set her off on a series of experiences which include the affair she has been considering, becoming invisible (cue some great gags, especially one involving a New York cab) and a brief flirtation with opium (here Allen's trademark soundtrack of old standards includes the evocative "Limehouse Blues"). There's also some great dialogue. "He's very deep," says Farrow of her putative lover (Joe Mantegna). "Yeah, and very deep is where he wants to put it", cracks back her visiting muse (a glittering cameo from Bernadette Peters).
On the DVD: Presented in widescreen (1.85:1) format with a Dolby Digital stereo soundtrack, Alice on DVD replicates the hallmark intimacy of Allen's films in the cinema with good picture and lush sound quality (the importance of his romantic, referential musical choices should never be underestimated). There are no extras, apart from the original theatrical trailer. --Piers Ford
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Top customer reviews
At first I was resistant, finding myself bored with the cliche Allen vocabulary and set-up amongst the bored, spoiled rich people of Manhattan, but this quickly passed as Alice's visit to a Chinese doctor dispensed with the physical complaint and moved into psychology. Her pursuit of greater understanding of her life and her history is often very insightful but just occasionally a tad dull. The elements of fantasy help a great deal, and there are some very nice jokes, but I felt, for example, the richness of Joe Mantegna's voice going begging with the lacklustre script given to him. Only the potion episode gives him a chance to light up.
One cannot fail to be impressed, again and again, by Allen's ability to capture believeable conversations, especially between women. But? The love affair, the talk of passion and wild abandon: that's a problem. It never materializes. Things never heat up. the closest we get is a terrific moment where Alice is transformed into a vamp intent on seducing the man she's attracted to.
It's better than Another Woman, and is well worth seeing for Mia Farrow's performance. William Hurt plays the conceited husband with aplomb, but I felt at that stage of his career he deserved better. The man who plays Dr Yang is excellent.
Very good, but not great.
Most recent customer reviews
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D. Yang: “Don’t all Catholics? Read more
I believe this is Woody Allen last movie with Mia Farrow. He's not playing in. She delivers a first class performance of a New York socialite who finds her life empty and complete... Read morePublished on 24 Dec. 2013 by L. Fabrice
Woody Allen's 1990 film Alice, for me, fits into that category of this master director's work that I would call 'middling'. Read morePublished on 9 July 2012 by Keith M
One of my favourite Woody Allen movies is The Purple Rose of Cairo and Alice shares many similarities. Not one of his best but certainly recommended.Published on 23 Jun. 2012 by Mr. E. A. Dobson