Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)

“Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” seems to me like the type of movie that fans of director Martin Scorsese appreciate more than they enjoy, and I suppose I would be in that category myself. After all, Scorsese’s camera never seems to stops moving, which gives this quiet character study a certain up-close-and-personal edge that’s augmented by long takes and ambitious panning shots that are equal parts melodramatic and remarkable. However, what makes the movie notable for its era (which is, specifically, Scorsese’s film-school approach to what’s essentially a mainstream weeper) is also what makes the narrative so distracted: The emphasis seems to be mostly centered on the technical movement of the camera and how the characters interact with it, and it results in a histrionic streak that never gels with the mother-son dynamic at the heart of its central conflict. Ellen Burstyn is strong in the lead role and her chemistry with on-screen son Alfred Lutter III is believable, but I wasn’t convinced that her’s was a story worth telling in the first place. In the end, my take is that it’s the sort of movie that’s known for its technical approach, and as a modern viewer it’s hard to relate to the excitement film historians may have felt at the time of the movie’s release thanks to its-then progressive camera use – instead, as it is, it’s perfectly fine, if a tad on the dull side.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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