Every once in a while, a film has a very strange or interesting twist. Sometimes they don’t work, and other times they work great. Alice is one of the latter. Even though another film has used the same plot device, I think it works better in Alice than in the other movie. Both films hinge on this twist, and I was pleasantly surprised how good the twist worked in this film.
The title character Alice (Keke Palmer) is enslaved in the deep south of Georgia. Her owner, Paul Bennett (Jonny Lee Miller), is very abusive to his slaves. He works them to the bone and doesn’t care about them unless they do what he says. When her husband is beaten and eventually killed, she decides the only thing to do is try to escape her enslavement by any means necessary. What she sees when she escapes is a whole new world she didn’t expect to see.
Keke Palmer (Akeelah and the Bee) gives the performance of her career. She is so believable as this woman enslaved on a plantation in the middle of nowhere in Georgia. The anger and power that she brings to this character are amazing. She has been forced to be a servant in this world, and she makes the most of a bad situation, but she finally has enough of it and makes her life and death move to save her life.
The director, Krysten ver Linden, sets this film in two different worlds, and both worlds that she puts the movie in fit together perfectly. Both worlds have distinctly different aesthetics to them. One is a very colorful and vibrant world, and the other is drab and colorless. The choices she makes with these two worlds are very interesting. She is one of the few directors who could pull this off because she knows these worlds.
The genre she sets this film in is Blacksploitation. Films such as Coffey and actresses such as Pam Grier are definitely the inspiration for Alice. The hair, clothes, and music in the film resemble that of these types of films from the 60s and 70s. Filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino we’re inspired by this genre as well with his film Jackie Brown. This genre is a fun and action-packed genre, but it’s not done as much anymore. I’m glad Linden revisited this tried and true genre of film.
The film uses music that fits into one of the two worlds the film fits into and takes inspiration from specific genres of movies. The music plays a big part in who this woman ends up becoming. Common, who plays a supporting character Frank in the film, also is in charge of the music. He knows what the film needs in this regard. His own experience in the industry plays a big part in the choices he made for the film’s sake.
Alice is a film that says a lot about women in our society. It is also trying to show how powerful a woman can be when she has the right motivation to succeed. Linden is the right director to explore these dual worlds this film is exploring. Some people may be turned off by some of the things that happen in the film’s first half. The second half draws from great music and an inspiring genre of cinema. I hope audiences like this film as much as I do despite some of the complex subject matter it depicts.
Dan Skip Allen
Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media