Entertainment Magazine

Kiss My Grits

Posted on the 18 October 2017 by Sjhoneywell
Films: Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen. Kiss My Grits

When you think of Martin Scorsese, chances are good that you think of his more mob-related movies (Casino, Goodfellas) or his more violent films (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull). I would have never pegged him as the director of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, a film that was eventually turned into a long-running television sit-com. I remember the show; my mom loved it. Naturally, I went into the movie thinking that it was going to be a clear inspiration for a good-natured show that took place in a diner. Well, I was wrong, and in this case, that’s not a bad thing.

What I didn’t know was that Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore was a project that was controlled almost from the start by Ellen Burstyn, who was still riding high from success in The Exorcist. Burstyn hand-picked Scorsese to direct, and Scorsese then surrounding himself with women to act in many important crew roles. The entire point behind the film was to make a film about a realistic woman with realistic problems.

The film takes place in three parts. It starts with the life of Alice Hyatt (Ellen Burstyn), a failed lounge singer living in New Mexico with her husband (Billy Green Bush) and 11-year-old son Tommy (Alfred Lutter III). It seems like a sadly typical marriage, with Alice treated much like a servant and an at least mildly antagonistic relationship between father and son. Everything changes when Alice’s husband is killed in a trucking accident. She holds a garage sale, sells off everything she cans, and decides to return to Monterey where she grew up.

Part two takes place in Phoenix, where Alice and Tommy stop so that Alice can attempt to earn some money to get them on to California. She eventually gets a job as a lounge singer and meets Ben (Harvey Keitel). Things are good until Ben’s wife Rita (Lane Bradbury) shows up at Alice’s apartment, followed by Ben who turns out to be an abusive husband and wildly violent. Now terrified of being involved with someone who has turned out to be a potential sociopath, Alice and Tommy pack the car and head west again. However, since Alice was forced to spend a lot of the money she made as a singer on new outfits to wear on the job, they’re soon out of money and stuck in Tucson.

The rest of the film takes place here. Alice gets a job waitressing at a diner run by Mel (Vic Tayback). Also working there are the mouthy and crude Flo (Diane Ladd) and the mousey and incompetent Vera (Valerie Curtin). While working, Alice meets David (Kris Kristofferson), an attractive divorced rancher who eats at the diner frequently. Meanwhile, Tommy starts running around with Audrey (Jodie Foster), a delinquent shoplifter and teenage drinker whose mother provides for her by being a prostitute. There will, of course, be problems in the relationships between David and Alice and between David and Tommy. But that’s what the conclusion is for.

As I said at the top, I was expecting something much more along the lines of a lighthearted romp. Sure, the sit-com sometimes tackled a more serious issue just like all sit-coms do eventually, but it was mostly a show about a woman working as a waitress but really wanting to be a singer and all of the wacky people she knows and works with. I watched more than my fair share of episodes because my mother loved the show. Toward the end of the show’s run, I think mom identified on some level with the title character—she was going through a divorce and living with a teenaged son (me), and so there were some certain parallels.

While there are moments of humor in the film, it’s not very lighthearted. It’s actually gritty in places, and there are moments when it feels like a more stereotypical Scorsese film. The sudden violence when Ben finds his wife in Alice’s apartment, for instance, is startling and a little scary. But there are also moments of deep emotion that play beautifully. Scorsese isn’t always noted for having a deft touch as a director, and he clearly demonstrates one here, using the camera beautifully for emotional moments and drawing the audience in to what is happening on the screen.

While the cast is uniformly good, this is absolutely Burstyn’s picture. She is onscreen for virtually all of the film’s running time, save a scene or two between Tommy and Audrey and perhaps one or two between Tommy and David. Even in those scenes, Alice is the focus of what is going on, and everything seems to happen through the lens of Alice’s point of view. Burstyn succeeds in this role by being completely believable. She looks like a real woman. Remade today, Alice would be presented to us the way unattached women are given to us in modern rom-coms: staggeringly beautiful and cursed with some man-repelling character flaw. Here, she’s genuine, and that makes the entire rest of the film work.

My expectations were shattered in terms of what I expected this to be. I thought there’d be a lot of wisecracking banter between short order cook and waitresses. Instead, it’s a real human drama, and it’s a damn fine one.

Why to watch Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: For a movie that inspired a sit-com, it’s pretty damn intense.
Why not to watch: Your expectations may be more along the lines of the television show.

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Country Chic Photoshoot

    Country Chic Photoshoot

    Today’s styled shoot will mesmerize you with its unique country chic style! The barn of the Marathon equestrian center was the ideal background for natural,... Read more

    9 hours, 5 minutes ago by   Eleni Balkouli
  • TokyoTreat Unboxing: Japanese Candy Dreams Come True

    TokyoTreat Unboxing: Japanese Candy Dreams Come True

    TokyoTreat recently reached out to me to check out their amazing subscription boxes, full to the brim of delicious Japanese candy and snacks! Read more

    10 hours, 4 minutes ago by   Cubiclethrowdown
  • To Abby, With Love

    Abby, With Love

    Glennon, I realize Abby is all yours.  I got a pretty fantastic feminist husband of my own.  However, your wife turned a corner for me I never thought I’d get... Read more

    12 hours, 12 minutes ago by   Amanda Bruce
  • Extra Flavoursome Red Wine Beef Stew with Bacon

    Extra Flavoursome Wine Beef Stew with Bacon

    version;"Your beef stew got standard! Must cook again!"After I have cooked this EASY healthy red wine beef stew at here for my family, my beef-loving husband an... Read more

    12 hours, 50 minutes ago by   Zoebakeforhappykids
  • Neck Bone Recipe

    Neck Bone Recipe

    I posted on my face book page that I was making my mom neck bone this weekend and I had several requests for the recipe - so, I decided to make a post of it. ... Read more

    The 15 July 2018 by   Kalamitykelli
  • Sensitive Skin Saviours: What I Do When My Skin is Super Sensitive

    Sensitive Skin Saviours: What When Super

    At least twice a year my skin freaks out, gets really sensitive, red, dry and flaky. Most products sting and it's very uncomfortable. It's only happened since w... Read more

    The 15 July 2018 by   Glossqueen
  • Building A Team Around Your Band

    So I just watched my nations team, the French team, win the world cup, and it was glorious. It got me thinking quite a bit about teamwork though and I wanted... Read more

    The 15 July 2018 by   Indiemusicpromo