Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Christopher Bligh

Plot: What’s it about?

When the viewer thinks of the work of Martin Scorsese, classics like Goodfellas, Raging Bull and Taxi Driver immediately comes to mind. Whenever this writer mentions that he did a film that would later become a TV show to other viewers (Alice), there’s always a surprised _expression. On the heels of Mean Streets, Scorsese was presented a project that was different, interesting and what could seem to be television movie fare turns out to be a lot more interesting and just as surprising as the reaction on the viewers face of this chapter in his body of work. Points can go from here to there, but two are heading there because Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.

Alice Hyatt (Ellen Burstyn) is a housewife, has a child that she loves very much and an aspiration to sing. It seems that married life doesn’t suit to her too well and one day, something happens to Alice that changes the course of her life forever from being stuck in the home living for her family to going on the road and going from place to place with her son in search of finding a job and getting enough money to get to Monterey. Along the way, roadblocks in the shape of other men come into her life but none give as big an impression than the persistant David (Kris Kristofferson).

Here’s a film that I thought was going to start off in one way but as the film went along it changed in a few ways and it turned out to be a very good experience in the process. This is certainly a different film for Scorsese and another example of how talented a director Scorsese is as he can tackle almost any genre. He assures the viewer that despite the change of pace, you are in good directorial hands.

As for the performances, Ellen Burstyn goes through different phases of Alice, from wife to desperate worker, to waitress to loving girlfriend to frustration without ever going over the top. No matter what roadblocks come her way, she always manages to keep a reserve about herself and though the direction of her life goes in ways she doesn’t expect, she manages to keep her head above water.

Around this time of the seventies, Kris Kristofferson got seen more in film than in music and whenever he appeared on film, he always came across in that period as very likeable with a edge. In this film, he keeps that likability and does a very good job as David falling for Alice and her son and it seems that in the roadblocks of life, David and Alice are not much different. Burstyn gets some solid support from Diane Ladd as the sweet and sassy Flo, Alfred Lutter as her slightly annoying but loving son Tommy, Jodie Foster (pre-Taxi Driver) as Tommy’s tomboyish friend Audrey and look closely for an early appearance of Laura Dern at the last few minutes in the diner.

Alice may not live here anymore but she’s always welcome to this viewer as Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is a different but welcome addition to Martin Scorsese’s already vast body of work.

Video: How does it look?

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore gets the anamorphic widescreen treatment on DVD in 1.85:1 and the results are just as surprisingly entertaining as the movie. This film is an example of how a seventies film can look just like a film from today as the transfer is one of the best of a film I had seen of that period as there’s not a scratch or slight print flaw on this transfer. The colors are not too bleeding and the blacks keep a nice balance throughout the entire film. It starts off in 1.33:1 windowboxed with a nice shade of red but then goes for Thomas Crown boxback into 1.85:1. A fine transfer and nothing says great job better than seeing the original W logo for Warner Bros. on this disc.

Audio: How does it sound?

If the visual transfer was a surprise, this viewer could honestly say that the audio transfer was not up to par with the flawless print. In this mono track, the film sounds like a product of the time with its share of muteness. Most of the activity is saved for the center channels and the sound mix gets mixed results as there is mostly dialogue, little effects, and some music. Overall, it’s a decent job but not a great one. This disc also has a French mono track along with English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Along with the film’s theatrical trailer, there is a unique thing on this disc. There is a commentary option with Martin Scorsese, Ellen Burstyn and Kris Kristofferson that plays an abbreviated version of the film almost like the old 8mm version of feature films of the early days. This is a great tool where the viewer doesn’t have to watch the whole movie waiting for the commentary to show up. This puts the film together nicely and the comments from all are wonderful as well as some very good comments from Diane Ladd, who was not credited on the DVD case but supplies her comments nicely. It makes this almost two hour movie into 53 minutes of commentary. It’s nicely put together and a solid commentary track all around.

Finally on the disc is a present day documentary Second Chances: The Making of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and it presents both Ellen Burstyn and Kris Kristofferson discussing the film and does a great job not being repetitive from the commentary track giving additional information from both sides. It’s interesting to see the early pictures of Kristofferson as it’s rare to see him with shorter hair and clean shaven and there’s one band picture showing Kristofferson in his youth and from the side he resembled Jim Morrison in his high school years. The good people at Automat Pictures have worked up another present day satisfying documentary on a Scorsese DVD.

Overall, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore provides an entertaining character study along with satisfactory comments and an intriguing documentary for an overall well recommended DVD.

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